The 34th edition of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is just a few days away, and the excitement is already building up. The tournament is the men’s main international football competition on the continent.
24 teams across the regions of the continent will be slugging it out from January 13, 2024, to February 11, 2024, in Côte d’Ivoire. From the most successful team (Egypt, 7 times) to the defending champions, Senegal, we will be highlighting the 8 top teams that we think stand a chance to go all the way.
Starting from the home base, the Super Eagles of Nigeria are aiming to grab their first Nations Cup win since the late Stephen Keshi led the team to the final win against Burkina Faso in 2013. Jose Peseiro will be looking to count on the reigning African best player of the year, Napoli’s goalscoring star Victor Osimhen, for goals in the tournament. Bayern Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface would have added more firepower to the star-studded attack of the Super Eagles but he’s pronounced injured. He’s been replaced in the squad by OGC Nice’s Terem Moffi.
Notable mentions are AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze, Atalanta’s explosive forward Ademola Lookman, and Fulham’s duo Alex Iwobi and Calvin Bassey.
The Elephants of Ivory Coast are a footballing superpower, and it would be a great mistake to underestimate them even as they are the host nation. The two-time winners will be counting on the trickery and goalscoring abilities of their star striker, Wilfred Zaha. The former Crystal Palace man reminded the world of his ability in the UEFA Champions League in his performances for Galatasaray. The Ivorians will also be looking to Manchester United’s 21-year-old rising star, Amad Diallo, for inspiration.
Sébastien Haller, Simon Adingra, Jérémie Boga, Serge Aurier, Seko Fofana, Franck Kessié, Ibrahim Sangaré, Jonathan Bamba, Evan Nicka, and Max-Alain Gradel will look to lift the Jean-Louis Gasset-led side to glory.
The Pharaohs of Egypt are the tournament’s most successful team. They have won the competition seven times. A mainstay in the competition, they have also featured in 26 of the 34 editions of the competition’s history. Arguably one of the tournament favourites, the Pharaohs will be looking to win the tournament they last won in 2010 and will be heavily banking on the goalscoring and creative ability of their superstar forward Mohamed Salah.
The Liverpool man will be looking to mend the wounds of the country’s penalty shootout defeat to Senegal in the last edition and push them to glory. The 27-man list released by Rui Vitoria also includes Omar Marmoush (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Mahmoud “Trezeguet” Hassan (Trabzonspor, Turkey), Mostafa Mohamed (FC Nantes, France), and Mohamed Elneny (Arsenal, England).
The Desert Foxes of Algeria are one of the teams to also keep an eye on for the upcoming tournament. While their coach, Djamel Belmadi, has been keen to play down their chances of going all the way, it will be difficult to underestimate their chances of winning the tournament.
The 2019 edition winners failed to make it to the knockout stages of the 2021 TotalEnergies AFCON in Cameroon and have experienced a recent dip in form, but with their list of stars for this tournament and the difficult-to-predict nature of the tournament, it’s hard to imagine them not being in the running. Former Manchester City star Riyad Mahrez will lead the Algerian contingent alongside Wolverhampton Wanderers defender Rayan Ait Nouri, AS Roma midfielder Houssem Aouar, AC Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer, and Islam Slimani of Coritiba.
In African football, the Ghanaian football team has always been one of the most respected. The Black Stars qualified for the World Cup tournament in Qatar, although they were knocked out of the group stage. Their star-studded team remains one of the favourites to win the African Cup of Nations, a tournament they’ve won four times in the past.
They have stars like Westham United star Muhammed Kudus, Crystal Palace’s Jordan Ayew, and Antoine Semenyo of Bournemouth.
Senegal are the defending champions of the African Cup of Nations, and they have stars like Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Edouard Mendy from the Saudi Pro League and Moussa Niakhate, Cheikhou Kouyate, Fode Ballo-Toure, Nicolas Jackson, Idrissa Gana Gueye, and Pepe Matar Sarr from the Premier League to defend the trophy.
During the last World Cup, the team put up an impressive performance by beating Qatar and Ecuador in the group stage but losing to England in the first knockout stage. Nevertheless, the team is expected to be in the running for the coveted trophy.
Morocco made history during the last World Cup by being the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the tournament after beating the incredible Portugal team in the quarter-finals, but they were knocked out by France in the semis. Morocco has only won the AFCON once, and that was in 1976, but their impressive performance during the World Cup puts them at the top of the favourites ranking.
They have stars like Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat, Nayef Aquero, and Yassine Bounno.
Cameroon has a history of African football. Take away that the football legend, Samuel Eto’o, is from the country, and the team is the second most successful team with five AFCON trophies. Even though it’s been years since they made a huge surprise in the tournament, fans always root for them to put out an outstanding performance.
Cameroon will be hoping for inspired performances from their ball-playing goalkeeper Andre Onana, who plays for Manchester United, and their fiery striker Vincent Aboubakar from Besiktas.