AFCON 2023: African champions eliminated in the first round – At a glance

Algeria, the reigning African champions, are out of the AFCON 2021 tournament prematurely. The Fennecs were eliminated in the first round. But Algeria is not the only nation to have experienced such disillusionment. There have been more than a dozen in the history of the AFCON.

Algeria eliminated in the first round of AFCON 2021

Reigning African champions and favourites to win the trophy themselves, Algeria will bow out of the AFCON 2021 in the first round. The elimination of a defending champion at this stage is something that other teams have also experienced. The Fennecs, for their part, experienced only their 2nd disillusionment after that of 1992.


Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970 and 1976

Winners of the trophy for the first time in their history in 1968, DR Congo fell at the first hurdle the following year. The Congolese finished bottom of their group with 1 draw and 2 defeats. The same story repeated itself after the 1976 crown. Known as Zaire at the time, the Leopards failed to progress beyond the group stage after 3 matches (1 draw, 2 defeats).


Sudan in 1972

On the strength of their 1970 triumph, Sudan fell at the first hurdle in the 1972 edition, won by Congo Brazzaville. The Sudanese also failed to progress beyond this stage in subsequent editions.

Ahmed Farès’ Morocco in 1978

Morocco won their first AFCON in 1976. Led by Ahmed Faras (tournament top scorer), the Atlas Lions clinched the trophy after just two appearances. However, they failed to repeat the feat at the following edition in Ghana. Worse still, the reigning African champions finished 3rd in their group with 4 points, and failed to progress beyond the group stages. A storm swept over the Cherifian kingdom.

Ghana’s disillusionment in 1980 and 1984

Ghana has had the painful experience of being eliminated in the first round of the AFCON with the status of African champions on two occasions. First in 1980, when the Black Stars finished 3rd in their group behind Algeria and Morocco. Then, 4 years later, in Côte d’Ivoire. Ghana had just won their 4th title and were hoping to make another comeback after 1963 and 1965. The Black Stars suffered another disappointment, going out in the first round.

Nigeria in 1982

Nigeria, African champions in 1980, were eliminated in the first round 2 years later. The Super Eagles, in a group comprising Algeria, Zambia and Ethiopia, finished 3rd with one win and 2 defeats. Not enough to see the African champions continue their adventure and defend their title to the end.

A few years later, Nigeria experienced a similar situation. Winners of the 1994 African Cup of Nations, the Super Eagles withdrew from the 1996 edition for political reasons. They didn’t defend their title and didn’t return until 2000, when they reached the final.

The fall of the Pharaohs in 1988

Seven times African champions, Egypt is the continent’s most successful nation. But the great Egyptians have also fallen on hard times in the competition they so dominate. In addition to losing finals, the Pharaohs have also had the painful experience of being eliminated in the first round with the status of reigning African champions.

As host nation, Egypt won its 3rd AFCON in 1986, but failed to defend its title outside its borders in 1988. The Egyptians were eliminated in the group stages in Morocco. They repeated the same poor performances at the next two editions before reaching the quarter-finals in 1994, again in Morocco. That’s where their misfortune began.

Cameroon in 1990

With 5 AFCONs to their name, Cameroon is one of those African teams who were unable to defend their title immediately after winning it. Winners of the 1988 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, the Indomitable Lions were eliminated at the 1990 finals in Algeria. They finished 3rd in their group behind Zambia and Senegal.


Zambia in 2013

Zambia surprised many by winning the AFCON 2012. The Chipolopolos arrived in South Africa 2013 with a team bursting with talent and hunger. They beat Côte d’Ivoire in the final (0-0, 8-7 TAB) to lift their first AFCON. Since then, Zambia has been a shadow of its former self. Hervé Renard’s former protégés have never progressed beyond the group stages. Since 2015, Zambia has not qualified for the final phase of the Africa Cup of Nations.

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