The delayed Africa Cup of Nations will start January 13th, with many of the world’s top footballers in action. This year’s addition is expected to be extremely competitive without a clear favourite ahead of the pack.
Morocco and defending champions Senegal are rated by most experts as front-runners but Egypt, Nigeria and Ivory Coast aren’t far behind. The following article takes a look at each of the favourites and predicts how far they will make it in the tournament.
After becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-final in 2022, Morocco come in favourites for AFCON 2023. The team however, hasn’t had too much success in the tournament as of late, losing in the quarterfinals at the last edition. Since winning in 1976, Morocco have only reached the final once, in 2004, when they were beaten by Tunisia.
In terms of players, the Moroccon team boasts a number of top club players, including PSG defender Achraf Hakimi and Chelsea winger, Hakim Ziyech. Bayern Munich’s Noussair Mazraoui and Al Shabab’s Romain Saiss round out what is easily the tournament’s best defense.
Morocco were drawn to Group F along with Tanzania, Dominion Republic of Congo and Zambia. They shouldn’t have much trouble getting through the group with Congo coming in as the highest FIFA ranked team at 67.
We expect Morocco to make it to the knockout stage rather easily and be the team to beat in the backend of the competition.
As 7-time AFCON winners it’s clear that Egypt knows what it takes to win the title. The team hasn’t however been in very good form in its last few tournaments, unable to even qualify for the World Cup in 2022. The team has begun to turn it around, beating a number of top African teams on the way, including Ivory Coast, Morocco and Cameroon.
Much of the team’s success will likely be in the hands of Mohamed Salah, arguably the continent’s best footballer. Salah has helped Liverpool end a 30-year wait for a league title as well as got them a seventh Champions League trophy. Despite his overwhelming club success, the forward hasn’t been able to convert his club success into the national side.
Mohamed Elneny, a midfielder at Arsenal and Al Ittihad’s Ahmed are two other players to look out for from Egypt.
Egypt should make the knockout stage without much problem but will need to play their best game to come out champions.
Nigeria has had a tough time of it as of late. The team was eliminated in a play-off for a place at the Qatar World Cup by Ghana and fell early in the knockout stage at 2022 AFCON. The three-time winners will be in a relatively easy group but have Ivory Coast to contend with for first place.
On the bright side, Nigeria’s squad has loads of depth especially on the offensive side of the ball. Victor Osimhen in particular is expected to have a huge tournament. The striker was Serie A’s leading scorer last season as he led Napoli to their first league title in 1990.
The recently crowned African Footballer of the Year will be joined at the front by Leicester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho, AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze, Atalanta’s Ademola Lookman and Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface.
We believe Nigeria has what it takes to be a contender this year if they can pull the team together. Expect them to make the Semis or even the Final if they can get off to a good start.
The defending champions will be looking to make it two in row in Qatar and have all the pieces to do so. The team will however be missing Sadio Mane who was injured late last year and will miss the tournament. Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson who signed in the summer from Villareal will be a huge boost which may be able to cover up the loss.
Pape Matar Sarr will anchor the midfield, while Edouard Mendy offers great assurance in goal. Kalidou Koulibaly is the rock on defense which should provide a great foundation for the team to be built on.
Senegal are definitely one of the favourites for the tournament and should make the final if their strikers stay hot.