What makes the AFCON 2023 so special? – At a glance

AFCON 2023 will be held in Côte d’Ivoire from January 13 to February 11.This edition will definitely be unlike any other.Among other things, it ushers in the era of Saudi Pro League stars. Here’s a closer look at some of the other features that will characterize the event.

AFCON 2023 will usher in the era of selected players playing for Saudi clubs.

And these are no small names. The majority of Africa’s greatest flag-bearers have moved to the Gulf. Clearly, the level of adversity offered by European leagues and the Champions League differs from their Asian equivalents. Is this enough to speak of an AFCON on the cheap? Contradictory answers will be given by all. Zambia, with a team of locals and players from African leagues, won the competition. Algeria, with many players from so-called exotic leagues, won the 2019 edition.

What is certain for the forthcoming AFCON is that, in terms of prestige, the players who used to play for the big clubs have dropped drastically, while those in Saudi Arabia and Qatar have progressed exponentially. Sadio Mané moved from Bayern Munich to Al Nassr.Franck Kessié left Barcelona for Al Ahly, Kalidou Koulibaly Chelsea for Al Hilal, Yassine Bounou Sevilla for the same team as Koulibaly, Riyad Mahrez Man City for Arabia too. Then there’s Karl Toko Ekambi, Seko Fofana, Edouard Mendy, Abdou Diallo, Romain Saiss, Habib Diallo… All leaders of their teams!

The AFCON of the new generation and perhaps of the demise of many of the old guard

Salah, Hakimi, Anguissa and perhaps Osimhen, who has yet to make history with his national team, are the only confirmed African players at the very highest level. Boniface (Leverkusen), Bissouma (Tottenham), Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea), Pape Matar Sarr (Tottenham) as well as Osimhen, Tapsoba (Leverkusen) and Ezzalzouli (Real Bétis) are the next generation, Ismaël Diomandé (Sporting Portugal), Omar Marmoush (Frankfurt), Bryan Mbeumo (Brentford), Serhou Guirassy (Stuttgart), Mohamed Kudus (West Ham), Ounahi (Marseille) Nuamah (Lyon), Adingra, (Brighton), Amine Adli (Leverkusen) and others.

These players are destined to be the future of their national teams, and even on the world stage. These are the African players who play for Europe’s biggest clubs.

There are also players who are heralded as future greats, such as Lamine Camara (Metz), Mohamed Amoura (Union Saint Gilloise) and Yankuba Minteh (PSV Eindhoven). Their performances in this competition could help all these players to change dimension. This edition is therefore one of affirmation or maturity for many hopefuls.

On the other hand, there are many players in their thirties whose future will be very much in question.If their performances decline substantially, this year’s AFCON could well mark their retirement. Their names are Sadio Mané, Cheikhou Kouyaté, Gana Gueye, Vincent Aboubakar, Romain Saiss…

AFCON with scorers on the rise in Europe

There’s good news for the CAN, and a good start to the attacking spectacle, in the shape of a number of African strikers who are blazing a trail in Europe.

Serhou Guirassy= 16 goals in 11 Bundesliga games, simply stratospheric

Victor Boniface =8 goals, 5 assists in 13 league games, 4 Europa League goals, 2 Cup goals. One of the Bundesliga’s summer hits.

Osimhen =6 goals in 10 Serie A games, recently named Serie A’s best player 2022-2023, 7th in the latest Golden Ball awards.

Salah = 10 goals and 6 assists in the Premier League

Marmoush = 6 goals and an assist in 13 Bundesliga games

Amoura= 9 goals in 11 Jupiler League games

Inaki Williams= 7 goals in 15 Laliga games

AFCON to give players without game time a chance to get back on track

The list includes Bertrand Traoré, who is not playing with Aston Villa; Ilaix Moriba of Leipzig; Abde Ezzalzouli, who, against all expectations, is not playing too much; Samuel Chukwueze, who has yet to come to terms with his transfer to AC Milan; Naby Keita, who has been plagued by injury; Cheikhou Kouyaté, who is in need of playing time; and Habib Diallo, who is still not turning heads in Saudi Arabia.

This edition is also an opportunity for players who are not at the top of the game in Asia to show that they haven’t wasted their time. And perhaps to play matches with some adversity.Many have things to prove to their detractors.

The AFCON and a few remarks on the statutes, some particularities

This edition will be the first in which a World Cup semi-finalist takes part. It will also be Senegal’s chance to defend their title. The 34th African Cup of Nations will again feature one of the finest attacking lines ever seen with Nigeria, at least on paper (Osimhen, Awoniyi, Boniface, Chukwueze, Lookman, Moffi…), but with a problematic defense and goalkeeping position. With a highly competitive Malian midfield; the South African team, with its local players and high quality of play; and the reunion, not on the pitch but on the bench, of former internationals at the helm of major national teams: Eric Shelle, Aliou Cissé, Walid Regragui, Kaba Diawara, Djamel Belmadi.

Representatives by zone

West Africa (UFOA, 9 participants out of 16 members = 56%): Senegal; Cape Verde, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia.

Maghreb (UNAF, 4 participants out of 5 members=80%): Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia

Central Africa (UNIFFAC 4 out of 8 =50%): Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo

Southern Africa (COSAFA, 6 out of 14=43%): Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia

East Africa (CECAFA, 1 of 12=8%): Tanzania


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