The stage is set for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after participating nations knew of their opponents in the group stages following the tournament draw during a colorful ceremony in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
The 24 teams were split across four pots based on the latest FIFA rankings before the draw. The teams were further drafted into six groups (A, B, C, D, E & F) of four teams each. Courtesy of being the host, Cote d’Ivoire was drawn as the first team in Group A.
With several African football legends in attendance, the draw ceremony was headlined by two-time African player of the year Sadio Mane, Ivorian legend Didier Drogba, Moroccan star Achraf Hakimi, and Nigerian myth John Obi Mikel.
Host Cote d’Ivoire won the Afcon twice in 1992 and 2015. They will be up against the Super Eagles of Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea, whom they faced in the first hurdle of the 2021 edition in Cameroon.
There will be a remake of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations final between Senegal and Cameroon after both continental giants were drawn into Group C alongside Guinea and The Gambia. The “Indomitable Lions” as Cameroon’s team is christened and the “Teranga Lions” as the Senegalese team is nicknamed are both keen on bagging home the continent’s most coveted football trophy and understand a strong start in the group will draw them closer to their objectives.
Senegal’s captain Sadio Mane and its all-time leading scorer in the Afcon with eight goals recognized the competitiveness of group C which pundits have been quick to describe as the toughest pool in the event.
“There are no small teams in Africa anymore. A testimony to this is that during the 2021 Afcon, we were almost knocked out in the group stages. We must expect tough matches and recognize that the games will be very competitive” Sadio Mane declared after the draw event.
It will be the first time since the 2015 Afcon in Equatorial Guinea that there will be no debutants at the Afcon as all 24 nations have featured in the continental event.
There will be a familiar reunion between Mali and Tunisia who will compete in Group E of the Afcon. It will be the third consecutive time Mali and Tunisia both find themselves in the same group at the Afcon after the 2019 and 2021 competitions. In 2019, the game ended in a 1-1 tie, and in 2021, Mali edged Tunisia 1-0. Both teams are joined by South Africa and Namibia.
Africa’s best-ranked team now following a fourth-place finish at the 2022 World Cup Morocco is in Group F alongside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Tanzania while record winners Egypt are in Group B with Ghana, Cape Verde, and Mozambique.
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Angola will be playing in Group D.
The 2023 Africa Cup Of Nations will be played from 13 January – to 11 February 2024.
The competition over the decades has become an esteemed destination for football fans and a melting pot of cultures. The event has become a vector for infrastructural development in the respective host nations with stadiums constructed, hotels erected, and health facilities endowed with state-of-the-art equipment to cater to fans and players.
Next year’s football jamboree thus presents another platform for Africans to come together around football while fostering the ideals of an inclusive, economically viable, and developed continent as part of the African Union’s “Agenda 2063”.
Africa Cup of Nations 2023 Group Stage:
Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau.
Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique.
Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, The Gambia.
Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola.
Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia.
Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania.