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The favourites to win AFCON 2023

The 34th iteration of the Africa Cup of Nations gets underway on January 13, with Senegal looking to defend the title they won for the first time in 2022.

AFCON has been a bi-annual event since its 1957 inauguration, rendering the competition a more common phenomenon than the World Cup and European Championships. AFCON’s frequency, however, doesn’t reduce its significance.

The upcoming tournament was originally scheduled for the summer of 2023, but adverse weather conditions in the Ivory Coast forced its postponement.

A litany of nations will be vying to dethrone Senegal once the 2023 tournament gets underway, with a number of countries believing they have a legitimate shot at glory.

Here’s 90min’s ranking of the favourites.

Saudi Arabia v Nigeria - International Friendly

Nigeria are blessed with an array of attacking talent / MB Media/GettyImages

Best AFCON finish: Winners (1980, 1994, 2013)
2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

No team at AFCON will boast more attacking firepower than Nigeria. The Super Eagles have Victor Osimhen, Victor Boniface, Ademola Lookman Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Iheanacho to call upon in the Ivory Coast.

Such talent renders the three-time winners a distinct threat, but they’ve disappointed at major tournaments since their last AFCON triumph in 2013.

Some have also called into question the competence of manager Jose Peseiro.


The hosts are among the favourites to go all the way / ISSOUF SANOGO/GettyImages

Best AFCON finish: Winners (1992, 2015)
2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

Ivory Coast may no longer possess superstars such as Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure, but they’ll be hoping that their home advantage will spearhead a successful campaign.

They haven’t progressed beyond the quarter-finals at AFCON since winning the competition for a second time in 2015.

However, this Ivory Coast squad is as balanced as it’s been in a while. Emerging stars such as Simon Adingra, Ousmane Diomande, and Odilon Kossounou should complement Franck Kessie and Sebastien Haller’s experience.

The hosts will be expected to progress alongside Nigeria from Group A, and it’ll be an intriguing battle for top spot.

Egypt v Djibouti - CAF Qualifiers

Egypt are record seven-time AFCON winners / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/GettyImages

Best AFCON finish: Winners (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008. 2010)

2021 AFCON finish: Runners-up

Egypt are the most successful nation at AFCON, winning the tournament seven times, yet all of their success arrived in a pre-Mohamed Salah world. Well, before the Premier League superstar made his international bow.

The North Africans have twice been beaten in the final since Salah’s emergence, and his presence once again renders them among the favourites to go all the way in 2023.

However, Egypt are perhaps more reliant on one individual compared to any other of their main rivals for the trophy.


Sadio Mane’s Senegal are the current holders / CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/GettyImages

Best AFCON finish: Winners (2021)

2021 AFCON finish: Winners

Senegal will be defending their maiden AFCON crown in the Ivory Coast after dramatically triumphing in Cameroon.

Sadio Mane was the hero as the Lions of Teranga downed Egypt in a penalty shootout in the 2021 final. Their squad has since been emboldened by an influx of youth, and their performance at the 2022 World Cup should inspire confidence ahead of their title defence.

However, difference-maker Mane’s indifferent form since departing Liverpool is a cause for concern heading into the tournament.

Morocco v Spain: Round of 16 - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Morocco became the first African nation to reach a World Cup sem-final in 2022 / Simon M Bruty/GettyImages

Best AFCON finish: Winners (1976)

2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

It’s hard to look beyond the World Cup history makers when it comes to 2023 AFCON favourites.

Morocco became the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals in 2022, and now they’re vying to win their first AFCON title since 1976.

With Walid Regragui still at the helm and their squad nearly identical from their Qatari heroics, the Atlas Lions are surely poised for a deep run. How they cope with increased expectations will be key, but this Morocco side are built for a deep run in the Ivory Coast.


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