With the start of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2024) already behind us the pressure is also ramping up on the teams that have been tipped to make their marks.
From 13 January to 11 February, 2024, 24 countries will converge in the Ivory Coast to slug it out for the right to be crowned champions of Africa.
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.
The increased number of participants means it has become more difficult for teams to win AFCON 2024. In the last 40 years, however, the trophy has always gone to a nation ranked in the top 10 on the continent, bar South Africa’s triumph in 1996 and Zambia’s fairytale victory in 2012. This trajectory is not expected to change as we count the days to another tournament.
Here are the favourites for AFCON 2024!
Algeria target renaissance at AFCON 2024
Algeria have been champions of the Africa Cup of Nations twice, with their last triumph coming in style in 2019 when they beat Senegal 1-0 in the final. However, the Fennecs had a disastrous run in the 2021 edition despite arriving at the tournament as defending champions.
Djamel Belmadi's side suffered a disappointing group stage exit, which was exacerbated by the fact that they also failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Algeria, though, are targeting a renaissance at AFCON 2024 and have been racking up some impressive results in recent months, including defeating Senegal in a friendly last September.
In experienced players like Riyad Mahrez, Islam Slimani and Aissa Mandi, Belmadi has at his disposal the perfect tools to undertake this mission. There is also the youth and enterprise of Ismael Bennacer and Youcef Belaili, who were key members of that 2019 AFCON-winning team.
Ivory Coast tapping into home advantage at AFCON 2023
Ivory Coast are set to host the AFCON for only the second time in the country’s history, having previously done so in 1984. The mere fact that the Elephants are playing as hosts makes them one of the favourites to win the tournament.
Having reached the round of 16 in 2021, Jean-Louis Gasset and his side will be looking to tap into their large home support to go all the way this time. After all, they have the 12th man on their side.
The Elephants have also proven that they can be very ruthless in front of goal, as evidenced by the 9-0 shellacking of Seychelles in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier last November. Although Ivory Coast will be missing Wilfred Zaha, the presence of Nicolas Pepe and Sebastien Haller means they have the tools to hurt opponents.
Egypt historically always a force
Egypt are the record champions of the Africa Cup of Nations, having won the tournament an unprecedented seven times. Irrespective of their form, the Pharaohs are always among the favourites when they qualify for the AFCON.
And it won’t be any different in the Ivory Coast, where they are paired in Group B alongside Ghana, Mozambique and Cape Verde. The fact remains, however, that Egypt have not won the AFCON since 2010.
They’ve actually come close on a number of occasions, including losing in the final in 2017 and 2021 to Cameroon and Senegal, respectively. Rui Vitoria has done well to lead Egypt to 11 victories in 13 matches since being appointed as head coach and he will be relying on Mohamed Salah to deliver the goods at the AFCON.
Morocco, the chosen one at AFCON 2023?
Morocco have done well to make themselves the best African team over the last 12 months. More than just qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, they went on to make history by becoming the first African side to reach the semi-finals.
Walid Regragui’s men captured the attention of the world with their performances in Qatar but now they need to replicate it in the AFCON. Their form has suffered a bit in recent matches, but the Atlas Lions remain favourites for the AFCON solely based on what they did at the World Cup a year ago.
Nigeria and a star-studded strike force at AFCON 2024
Nigeria have won the Africa Cup of Nations three times but they’ve also often been the side to flatter to deceive the most, especially when the chips are down.
AFCON 2023 will not be the first tournament that the Super Eagles will be entering as favourites. That was the case three years ago in Cameroon, where they lived up to expectations by easing past the group stage, only to fall at the hands of Tunisia in the round of 16.
This time, though, Nigeria are keen to redeem themselves. And they have the weapons to do so. Jose Peseiro's side is littered with a star-studded strike force, led by the reigning CAF Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen and Bayer Leverkusen sharp shooter Victor Boniface.
The Super Eagles are, however, short on quality in defence and in the goalkeeping department, but they still have enough firepower in attack to make up for that.
Senegal seek a legacy
Senegal will be aiming to win the Africa Cup of Nations back-to-back when they make the short trip to the Ivory Coast for the tournament. As defending champions, the Lions of Teranga have an uphill task to retain the trophy.
Perfectly combining physical, technical and tactical strengths, Aliou Cisse’s side is the team to beat. Senegal have also lost just one of their last nine matches since suffering elimination at the Qatar 2022 World Cup. They are certainly an in-form team and it will take a great deal to dethrone Sadio Mane and Co.