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AFCON 2023 Groups Preview: Group A & B

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (postponed from last year due to inclement weather during the original schedule) kicks off this coming weekend.


The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (postponed from last year due to inclement weather during the original schedule) kicks off this coming weekend. The biennial tournament will run from 13 January to 11 February of this year, starting when Ivory Coast takes on Guinea-Bissau. 51 more games will follow as the best of the best on the continent battle it out to be crowned champions of Africa. We have done some previews on all teams, starting today with Group A & Group B.

Group A

Cote d’Ivoire

Appearance: 25th

Best Finish: Winners in 1991 & 2015

The Ivorians head into their 25th tournament on a 7-match unbeaten run (W4 D3), with their last defeat coming at the hands of Zambia in an AFCON qualifier back in June. The defeat was not catastrophic, as they had already qualified, but it meant the Ivorians did not win their Group coming into the tournament. However, a lot will be expected of them as hosts, which may be a key reason why they are seen as third favorites for the tournament. As hosts, anything less than the semi-finals will be considered unsatisfactory, and they will look to their star players to get far.

Key Player(s): Sebastian Haller, Franck Kessie, Willy Boly

Equatorial Guinea

Appearance: 4th

Best Finish: 4th place in 2015

Equatorial Guinea came into this tournament on the back of a 10-game unbeaten run (W6 D4), including a 100% start in their World Cup qualification group. They may be ranked 88th in the world (18th in Africa), but it would be a mistake to underestimate their potential. They were also in Ivory Coast’s group in 2021 but finished in second place, famously beating Algeria 1-0. The Elephants would lose to eventual champions Senegal in the quarter-finals. It’s the first time that they have qualified for back-to-back tournaments, and they will be keen to go one further this time.

Key Player(s): Esteban Orozco Fernandez

Guinea Bissau

Appearance: 4th

Best Finish: Groups in 2017, 2019 and 2021

Into the finals for a 4th consecutive edition, the Djurtus have been knocked out of the Group stage on each of the last three occasions. Indeed, they are yet to win a game and only have two draws and two goals to show for their attendance so far. Only Benin (14 games) and Mozambique (12 games) currently have a longer run without a win at the AFCON finals. Ranked 103rd in the world (21st in Africa), a win against any of their opponents (they beat Nigeria in the qualifiers) will be a step in the right direction and may even give them a chance for a Last 16 finish.

Key Player(s): Mama Balde, Marciano Tchami


Appearance: 20th

Best Finish: Winners in 1980, 1994, and 2013

The Super Eagles were the only team with a 100% record in the 2021 Group stages but then were unceremoniously dumped out in the Round of 16 by Tunisia. Their star-studded lineup is led by newly crowned African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen, but many players can make the difference, especially on the attacking front. Having said that, they lost to Guinea this week in a pre-tournament friendly, which could be a blessing in disguise if it helps the team refocus and avoid being complacent.

Key Player(s): Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Boniface

Group B

    Cape Verde

    Appearance: 4th

    Best Finish: Quarter-finals (2013)

    The Blue Sharks are into their 4th tournament but have won just one of their last five games played since September. They are one of the teams that have benefitted from the expanded AFCON. They only had two appearances in the previous 10 editions with 16 teams, but have made as many appearances in just three expanded editions. Ranked 14th in Africa, just two places below Bafana Bafana, they are not as lowly ranked as many would assume. A Last 16 qualification would be the minimum acceptable goal, and if they meet a qualified Egyot in the final game, they may just squeeze through.

    Key Player(s): Tiago Correira, Logan Costa


    Appearance: 26th

    Best Finish: Winners (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010)

    Egypt remains the most successful African team of all time, with 26 AFCON qualifications and seven AFCON titles to go with. Yet, the last decade has not gone according to script for the Pharaohs, who have failed to qualify for three of the last six editions. When they qualified, they have performed well but came up short at the final hurdle. Two runners-up medals in three editions would be a good achievement for all but a few teams on the continent. Egypt is one of those. Mo Salah is undoubtedly the star show, but he’ll need help from elsewhere on the pitch should opponents choose to double up on him.

    Key Player(s): Salah, el Shanaway, Marmoush, Trezeguet


    Appearance: 24th

    Best Finish: Winners (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982)

    Ghana have qualified for the finals for the 10th consecutive edition, the most consistent run of all African teams. Yet, the last two editions have been anticlimactic – with a Last 16 and Group stage exit each. One win in five games is not the type of form you wish to carry into a tournament, but that is Ghana’s state. They are even ranked 61st at the moment (11th in Africa), just one place ahead of Bafana. Thomas Partey will be a huge miss in midfield, but there should be enough firepower in the side to go past the Group stages. The clash against Egypt could determine the Group winner, but Cape Verde has the potential to spring a surprise.

    Key Player(s): Mohammed Salisu, Mohammed Kudus, Inaki Williams


    Appearance: 5th

    Best Finish: Group stage (1986, 1996, 1998, 2010)

    A dramatic 95th-minute winner in the final qualifier against Benin sealed the ticket for Mozambique to get to Ivory Coast. A draw and a win in their pre-tournament friendlies will boost their confidence slightly, although the games have come against teams that did not qualify. The Mambas are into their fifth tournament but are yet to get a win. Oddly, Benin (14 games) is the only nation currently on a longer run without a win at AFCON. Three points against Cape Verde could be a reasonable target here.

    Key Player(s): Geny Catamo, Witi Qembo, Bruno Langa

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