By Eagle Eye Sports24
Côte d’Ivoire is ready to host the latest edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in January, but who will win the continent’s biggest competition?
The domestic club seasons may be in full flow right now, but a festival of international football will kick-start the 2024 schedule. As Qatar prepares to host the AFC Asian Cup on January 12th, Ivory Coast is ready to host the Africa Cup of Nations, starting on January 13th 2024.
The West African nation was initially awarded the competition in 2021 but has had to wait an extra three years to host AFCON. The 2024 matches will take place in Cameroon, in six different stadiums, in locations such as Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro and Yamoussukoro.
The tournament draw took place in October 2023, splitting the teams into six exciting groups. Host nation Ivory Coast is in Group A alongside Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau.
Egypt, seeking redemption from their final defeat two years ago, will kick off their campaign in Group B against Ghana, Cape Verde, and Mozambique. Meanwhile, Senegal, the defending champions, will start their title defence against five-time winners Cameroon, Guinea, and Gambia in Group C.
Former Manchester City and Al-Ahli forward Riyad Mahrez is probably one of the most prominent players taking part. He will captain Algeria to face Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Angola in Group D.
In Group E, Tunisia drew with Mali, South Africa, and Namibia and is one of the favourites to do well in the tournament.
Morocco is still flying high on their historical World Cup success in Qatar for being the first African side to reach a semi-final. In Group F, Morocco will face the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, and Tanzania, striving to secure their first tournament victory since 1976. Despite that solo win, the Atlas Lions are one of the favourites to lift the trophy this time around.
African football podcast host and writer Maher Mahzi told FOOTBALL NOW that they are a rapidly growing force in the football world.
“They there are very strong side. But I think what makes this team spectacular is the unity and cohesion they have within the squad, the coach, and the supporters. They all are pushing. And even at the federation level, nobody has a better football infrastructure and rock on the continent. The coach is one of the youngest rising stars on the African continent, a leader and a great guy. And then they all know how they want to play football.”
Many fans will watch AFCON due to the number of African star players participating. The talent on the field guarantees viewers for broadcasters in Africa and across the globe. According to BeIn Sport, the AFCON 2019 final between Senegal and Egypt reached record-breaking figures, with over 90 million people tuning in to the Middle East-based broadcaster.
BBC football commentator Mark Scott commentated on three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments for the British channel and knows just what it means to the countries taking part:
“I think that certainly, in terms of the interest in England, it’s been getting bigger and bigger, and that’s because so many Premier League stars are now participating. And we’ve had an influx of so many good African talents into the English top division. Just looking at the scenes from the last AFCON, how much it just dominated the landscape, not just in the host countries, but also in all African countries. It’s such a massive deal. And I think that you look at the teams that are on show, and it’s such a tough one to call.”
Egypt is the most successful team in the Africa Cup of Nations. The Pharaohs boast a remarkable seven-time championship record, securing victory in three consecutive tournaments from 2006 to 2010. Once again, all eyes will be on their legendary forward, Mohamed Salah. Who has had significant success with Liverpool since joining in 2017. However, Salah, known as ‘The Egyptian King’, has yet to lift a major international trophy with Egypt.
“I think he carries the burden of Egypt firmly on his shoulders. With the greatest will in the world, he is a cut above many of his compatriots in terms of his ability. He is one of the best players in the world. And with that, going into a tournament, there’s so much focus and attention on him.
So the pressure is on for all the 24 countries taking part. Will Senegal retain the title and lift the trophy for the third time, or will we see a new team crowned the African Cup of Nations? The tournament runs from January 13 to February 11 2024.