AFCON 2023 – Group F: Teams, stadium, schedule

The 34th edition of the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) kicked off in Ivory Coast amid pomp and pageantry.

Twenty-four nations will battle for the ultimate prize. The competition has been in existence since 1957 with Egypt winning the maiden edition.

This year's competition is officially named AFCON 2023, since it was initially scheduled to take place last year, but was postponed until January-February 2024.

Every football tournament has a group that could go either way and Group F is certainly AFCON 2024’s version. That’s down to a combination of very good sides and the expected giants showing signs of underperformance. The group comprises Morocco, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Atlas Lions of Morocco are highly tipped to win the group after their heroic displays at 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The Chipolopolos of Zambia are in search of that trophy that has eluded them since 2012. Tanzania will be seeking to cause a stir as Greece did in the European championship in 2004 while DR Congo attempts to change the narratives.

This preview goes through each team to examine their prospects in Ivory Coast, who the star man is and how the four teams will finish.

Morocco

The Atlas Lions will be hoping to repeat the feat that saw conquering the continent in 1976. They are naturally amongst the top teams once again, with their attacking options arguably one of the best in the tournament. Walid Regragui’s high-pressing style has reached full fruition and there are no concerns about their mental strength in bigger games.

They have balance in defence can boast of a very good goalkeeper in Yassine Bounou (his status as the best goalkeeper on the continent corroborates this claim). They will surely score goals, but will concede less. In their last two games, Morocco have won all- scoring five and conceding none.

They may be in good shape going into the competition but they also bring to bear a rich vein of experience.

AFCON 2024
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Star player: Yassine Bounou

Bounou is obviously the man Morocco can rely on if they want to win the tournament for the second time. Arguably the best goalkeeper on the continent, the Al Hilal netminder has adapted his game at club level, so it should see his attacking teammates prosper.

Zambia

The Chipolopolos lost only once in the qualifiers with the only defeat meted them by Ivory Coast. They are making their first appearance since 2015, where they failed to advance from the group as was the case in 2013. Just like Morocco, they’ve won this tournament once and that was in 2012 under the tutelage of Hervé Renard.

It’s been a roller-coaster season for most of their players but this is a nation with an abundance of talent who are just craving an opportunity to have their names etched in the country’s football folklore. They are a resilient counter-attacking unit with a number of familiar forwards like Patson Daka, Fashion Sakala and Leece’s Lameck Banda.

The Zambian team is led by Avram Grant, who led Ghana to the 2015 AFCON final only to lose to Ivory Coast.

Zambia national team
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Star player: Patson Daka

He’s had a difficult start to the season losing his place in Leicester City’s starting eleven but he seemed to have found his mojo now and has scored four goals in four starts for his club, and has provided two assists to his teammates. If he can carry this form to the tournament, Zambia will be a threat to any team.

Tanzania

The Taifa Stars would be making their third appearance at the AFCON having previously featured in the 1980 and 2019 editions. They lost all their three games in their last appearance. Under the eagle eyes of Adel Amrouche, the Taifa Stars are expected to perform better than their last outing.

They placed second behind Algeria during the qualifiers. They won two, drew two and lost two. In their last 10 games, they’ve won four, lost two with two drawn games. They may not possess the luxury of stars their competitors can boast of but you underrate them at your own peril.

AFCON 2023
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Star Player: Simon Msuva

The versatile JS Kabylie forward is key to Tanzania’s chances of making it to the second phase. A skilful attacker and occasionally used as a winger, he ticks all boxes and could be the reason why Tanzania could pull a surprise.

DR Congo

Two-time winners of the tournament DR Congo will be on a mission to record their third since 1974. Having missed out on the previous edition, Sebastien Desabre will aim to make his team difficult to beat.

Since assuming office as manager of the ‘Leopards,’ the French gaffer has won five, drawn two and lost three. DR Congo were group winners in the qualifiers with nations like, Gabon, Sudan and Mauritania. Their underdog status will likely attract neutrals to the country once again. 

DR Congo national team
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Star Player: Simon Banza

The SC Braga forward has been in terrific for the Portuguese club this season. With 14 goals, three assists in 15 games, Banza will be the main man the Congolese can rely on to get them the goals in Ivory Coast.

Since making his DR Congo debut in October 2023, Banza has yet to find the back of the net in three games and would hope the goals will flow in Ivory Coast.

Group Prediction

This really is the clichéd ‘Group of Surprises’, but early signs indicate that Morocco have the balance and momentum to top the four. It’s possible that DR Congo may take time to find their rhythm and possibly beat Zambia and Tanzania.

Zambia and Tanzania are both more than capable of springing a surprise and the so-called bigger sides certainly won’t have it all their own way. Morocco would top the group with 9pts, DR Congo 6pts, Zambia 3pts and Tanzania – 0pt.

Schedule

The games in Group F will commence on January 17, the second round of games will be held on January 21, and the final group games will be honoured on January 23.

Stadium

The Group F games will be honoured at the Stade Laurent Pokou. It is a 20,000-seater capacity stadium located at San Pedro.

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Godfred Budu

Godfred Budu is a purpose-driven Ghanaian sports writer with a sharp eye for excellence. He has had stints with www.kickgh.com inkandkicks.com and ghanafans.com. He loves to talk and write about football on the African continent.