The president of the Ivorian Football Federation, Yacine Idriss Diallo, has named 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) favourites without including Nigeria.
The 64-year-old also left out his home country but picked Senegal, Egypt and Morocco as the AFCON favourites that are likely to challenge for the trophy.
The AFCON is scheduled for January 13 to February 11, with 24 countries set to battle for the right to be crowned champions.
Nigeria are paired in the same group with hosts the Ivory Coast, while Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau complete Group A.
Diallo snubs Nigeria in naming AFCON favourites
Despite the array of stars in the Super Eagles team, including reigning CAF Player of the Year Victor Osimhen, the Ivorian Football Federation president does not rate Nigeria among the favourites.
Diallo also picked his home country as dark horses, insisting the Elephants will try to win the tournament despite boasting an inexperienced squad.
“I trust our team, but we know that we are not favourites. The favourites are Morocco, Senegal, Egypt, all those teams,” he told FourFourTwo.
“We're building a new team. If you see our team now, I think 30% are very young, it's their first competition. But we will try to bring a very good squad to be ready. So we will try to do our best to go as far as possible and try to win the trophy. This is why we are here.”
Ivory Coast ready to host AFCON
The Ivory Coast will welcome the rest of Africa in eight days when the AFCON kicks off, with five cities and six stadiums set to host the tournament.
Diallo said the country deployed a perfectionist approach and that a lot of work has gone into making sure all the stadiums and other facilities are ready. He further assured that the Ivory Coast is ready to host the rest of the continent.
“I feel confident, but I don't feel relaxed. I feel confident because we work hard and we try to be ready. But, you know, as I'm a perfectionist, I want to be sure that everything is in the detail,” Diallo noted.
“So you can't be relaxed until you finish the competition. At the end of the competition, on the 11th of February I will tell you that: Now, I feel relaxed. But before that, impossible!”
Diallo backs Africa to host World Cup in the future
Meanwhile, the Ivorian Football Federation president also threw his weight behind Africa to host a FIFA World Cup in the next decade.
He noted that although it will be impossible for one country to host such a huge tournament, the continent can do it by replicating the joint bids tabled by Europe and South America.
“I think it will be possible. You have 48 teams for the World Cup now, no country in the world will be able to organise it alone now. It's impossible,” Diallo stated.
“The next one will be in the US, Mexico and Canada and then it will be Portugal, Spain, Morocco and several South American countries. The one after is in Saudi Arabia, but I think they will not be able to organize only in Saudi Arabia.
“I think for Africa it could be a good opportunity to have a part of the World Cup. With 48 teams in 12 groups, you can have six groups in Africa, like in South Africa, in North Africa, in West Africa, you know. We will be able to do that.”
Africa hosted its first, and so far only, World Cup in 2010 when South Africa won the bid. The global showpiece will, however, return to Africa in 2030 following a successful joint bid by Morocco, Portugal and Spain.