African Cup 2024, review of favorites and competition prospects

The 2024 Africa Cup of Nations will begin on Saturday, January 13 in Ivory Coast. Who is the favorite to win the 34th tournament trophy? Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Algeria… Overview of the forces present.

Twenty-four countries are vying to become Senegal’s heir and Africa’s only king’s crown. At the start of CAN 2024, on Saturday, January 13, in Abidjan (Ivory Coast), France 24 analyzes the forces at work in a sporting event that promises to be more competitive than ever.

Morocco: the end of the curse?

They are the ultra-favourites of the competition. His team achieved what all of Africa dreamed of: reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup. An impressive performance that coach Walid Regragui now wants to confirm on the continental stage: “We want to maintain the same level. I want to reach at least the semi-finals,” the coach said, announcing that he would resign if he did not do this. succeed. “We have to go there with full confidence to break the African Cup curse.”

However, the “curse” could play a cruel joke on the Atlas Lions. Indeed, although Morocco is one of Africa’s most frequent representatives at the World Cup, it has only won one CAN out of 18 appearances. This was in 1976. Since then they have suffered a number of disappointments, including losing the 2004 final in Tunisia. To make matters worse, the Moroccans have only won one draw in the last decade. That was in 2022, and the adventure ended in the quarter-finals against Egypt with a brawl between players and staff.

It’s time for optimism: “We have a good balance between the present and the future,” says Regraghi. In the lineup, Ismael Saibary and Chadi Riad, who won the first CAN in Morocco in 2023, can show their seniors how to break the spell.

Moroccan players throw Moroccan coach Walid Regragui into the air during celebrations at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between Morocco and Spain at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha, December 6, 2022.  © Evgeniy Titov, AFP Walid Regragui, a breeder from Morocco, was born with triumph for his performances after the victory in Spain.
Moroccan players throw Moroccan coach Walid Regragui into the air during celebrations at the end of the Qatar 2022 World Cup round of 16 football match between Morocco and Spain at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, west of Doha, December 6, 2022. © Evgeniy Titov, AFP Walid Regragui, a breeder from Morocco, was born with triumph for his performances after the victory in Spain. © AFP / Glyn Kirk

Senegal: champion costume

Senegal, long ridiculed in Africa for its lack of titles, has been keeping the jokes quiet for two years. After losing the final in 2019, his team won the CAN 2022 in Cameroon and, along the way, won the African Nations Championship, the Canadian Under-17 Championship, the Canadian Under-20 Championship, and the Canadian Beach Soccer Championship. Backed by the best generation in its history and brilliant youth, Senegal is at the top of African football and looking to retain the title. A result that has only been achieved so far by Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon.

The problem with the top is that you can only go back down. And there are weak signals. The Teranga Lions did not shine at the 2022 World Cup. A 1-0 defeat to Algeria in a friendly in September also exposed some shortcomings and most of its managers emigrated to Saudi Arabia, leaving doubts over their ability to handle intense matches.

Additionally, Senegal inherited a stronger group with the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon and a derby against neighbors Gambia and Guinea who are not easy to beat. What should they fear if they go off track in the first round, like the Algerian champions in 2022?

Ivory Coast: beloved at home

Aurier, Diomande, Ndichka, Cossonou, Singo, Fofana, Kessie, Sangare, Adingra, Haller, Konate, Pepe… Ivory Coast has one of the most impressive teams in the table. Suffice it to say that it is now or never time to reclaim its place in the African pantheon after three disappointing editions; especially since the “Elephants” will play in front of their fans who are dreaming of a new coronation after the one in 2015.

However, Ivory Coast will be under pressure at home. Pressure that often plays into the Africa Cup of Nations hosts. Since Egypt in 2006, no team has won at home, despite the host nations having won 11 of the previous 25 CAN tournaments. Veteran Elephants fans have not forgotten the embarrassment of 1984, when Ivory Coast crashed out of the group stage prematurely.

Algeria: vengeful convalescent

2022 has been a terrible year for Algerians. Capped off by a good run of invincibility, Algeria quickly suffered a disappointing first-round exit in Cameroon and then a brutal non-qualification for the World Cup in Qatar.

Djamel Belmadi will take revenge on this CAN. He can count on the brilliant combination of his managers Riyad Mahrez, Ramy Bensebaini, Sofiane Feghouli, Ismael Bennacer and the youngsters led by Ryan Ait Nouri and Fares Chaibi. In September, Algeria sent a signal by defeating Senegal on its soil: they were back.

Egypt: a team you can’t forget

In Africa, pharaohs are kings. With seven crownings, including a stunning hat-trick between 2006 and 2010, the only one in the history of the competition, Egypt continues to be a feared force among its opponents. Egypt, the rare team on the continent whose squad is 100% home-trained, has a very interesting balance sheet of 11 wins from 13 games since the arrival of coach Rui Vitoria.

All that remains is to overcome the mental milestone. In fact, the current generation of Pharaohs have lost two finals (2017 and 2021). Mohamed Salah, their international star, has yet to win anything with his country. However, it is difficult to bury the Egyptians too quickly; their collective discipline has more than once allowed them to defeat stronger opponents on paper.

Mohamed Salah in a red Egyptian jersey on his feet, with a weapon on his haunches.
Could Salah one day win a trophy with the Pharaohs? © Khaled Desouki, AFP

Nigeria: the fire and after?

The Super Eagles’ offensive armada would make the world’s most experienced defender break out in a cold sweat. And rightly so: Victor Osimhen, recently named the best African player of 2023, Ademola Lookman, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Iheanacho, Moses Simon, Sadiq Umar, Ahmed Musa…

However, football is played by 11 players, and not won by a bunch of strikers and attacking midfielders, otherwise PSG would have won the Champions League long ago. The defensive sector and goalkeeping position raise fears that Nigeria could go far in the tournament. Already in 2022, Nigeria passed the group stage, but completely collapsed due to an imbalance in the composition. The same evil should not cause the same consequences.

Like Egypt, Nigeria will want to maintain its position as an African giant: the country has already been crowned three times and has 15 podium finishes, an all-time competition record.

Mali: Are the Eagles ready to start?

Often a player, but never a winner. Mali is the only country not to be crowned on our list, despite a final in 1972 and podium finishes in 2012 and 2013. The 2024 edition could be a good fit for the country, known for its talent regularly competing in the youth categories.

Eric Schelle is particularly confident in one of the “best midfielders in the world”, in his own words. With Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma and Mohamed Camara, it really looks great. The absence could prove detrimental, however, with Ibrahim Kone, Adama ‘Malouda’ Traore and Cheick Doucouré all injured and goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa withdrawn from selection to focus on Stade Lavallois (French Ligue 2).

Tunisia: a level to overcome?

The third African country in the FIFA rankings (28th in the world), behind Morocco (13th) and Senegal (20th), Tunisia has rarely shone in Canada. In 20 matches, the Carthage Eagles have won the crown only once: in 2004 at home, after being finalists in South Africa in 1996, and again at home in 1965.

Tunisia has an unbreakable defensive strength: the Carthage Eagles finished the qualifying campaign with one goal conceded – the best balance among the participating teams. However, we will have to go all the way as the team is in complete transformation following the retirement of Wabi Khazri and the aging Youssef Msakni, and new management is slow to emerge.

Cameroon, beware of the sleeping lion

“The lion never dies, he sleeps,” says a Cameroonian proverb. However, in recent months, the Indomitable Lions seem to have fallen into lethargy. The five-time tournament winner barely qualified, trembling until the last match of the playoffs. The current squad seems weak, with only Zambo-Anguissa and Andre Onana playing for top European clubs.

However, Cameroon is capable of going above and beyond when least expected, such as this prestigious victory over Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar. The indomitable Leos will not have to sleep for long, because a group of death awaits them.

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