The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (also referred to as AFCON) commenced on 13th Jan with 24 nations battling it out to see who will be crowned AFCON Champions in 2024.
The tournament took place in Ivory Coast and provided football fans with non-stop action as the best players in the African continent came together to showcase their football skills and help their country become the new 2023 AFCON champions.
After a little over 3 weeks of action, the two top contenders that have made their way to the final are Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
They will face each other in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations finals on 11 Feb, Sunday at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
This stadium can seat up to 60,000 fans and is the biggest and most popular football stadium in Ivory Coast and will be packed to capacity with the home team having massive support!
Nigeria made it to the finals after beating South Africa while the home team Ivory Coast beat Congo DR in their semi-finals. South Africa and Congo DR will play each other for a third place finish on 10 Feb, Saturday at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
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The 2023 AFCON tournament was filled with loads of action that included some massive upsets, interesting surprises and a little bit of controversy. Fans got to see some of the best football talent in Africa on display and were also happy to see new and young stars put their hands up and showcase their potential as they look to become the next big football star from Africa.
We take a quick look below at some of the upsets and surprises before giving you a detailed breakdown of the 2023 AFCON Final and our predictions.
2023 Africa Cup of Nations – Upsets and Surprises
Africa sent as many as 5 countries to the 2022 FIFA World Cup and fans expected these teams to put on another strong showing at the 2023 AFCON tournament. Three big names in this tournament were Ghana, Cameroon and Egypt as between the three countries they share 16 AFCON Championships.
The biggest upset of the tournament was during the Group Stage when Ghana – also known as the Black Stars were eliminated. Ghanian fans were outraged and shocked as the Black Stars were lacklustre during the tournament and that could be due to a mix of them playing poorly and other teams raising their game and believing they could beat Ghana.
The next two upsets came during the R16 when Egypt and Cameroon were eliminated. Morocco who entered the tournament as one of the strong betting favourites due to the fact that they made it to the semi-finals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup disappointed on the big stage. They were eliminated along with defending champions Senegal.
Football fans who would have loved to see some of the big names like Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Hakimi and Riyad Mahrez play in the finals will be disappointed. However, Ivory Coast fans will be delighted to see their team pass through some tough tests and give themselves a chance to win the 2023 AFCON Cup on home soil!
The biggest surprise from the fans point of view and also African football in general is that the decision to expand the tournament and have 24 teams play has worked out well. Sometimes a decision to expand a tournament and bring in new teams can backfire as it can dilute the quality of the competition and make some games completely one-sided and disappointing for the fans.
This wasn’t the case at AFCON 2023 as none of the smaller teams seemed intimidated when they played some of the powerhouses of African football such as Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria.
South Africa caused one of the biggest surprises in the tournament when they beat Morocco 2-0. This was a major surprise as South Africa are ranked in 66th place in the FIFA World football rankings but they not only ended up beating Morocco but also made it to the semi-finals. They played extremely well against Nigeria but ended up losing on penalties.
Ivory Coast made the decision during the group stage to sack John-Louis Gasset who was head coach. The decision was made after the hosts lost a game 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea. That decision shook up the rest of the team who managed to pull themselves together and make it to the finals.
One of the main controversies leading up to AFCON 2023 was when Adel Amrouche, head coach for Tanzania was fined $10,000 and slapped with an 8 game suspension by the African Football Confederation. The fine was imposed after Amrouche alleged that Morocco manages African football and gets to choose their referees and had too much influence on the African Football Confederation.
2023 Africa Cup Nations Final Team Analysis
* Odds have been provided by William Hill and are accurate as of 08/02/2024
Key Players: Ademola Lookman, Victor Oshimen, Stanley Nwabili, Ahmed Musa (c)
Nigeria are one of the top footballing nations in the African continent but they tend to cave in during big games. That’s one of the reasons why they enter the 2023 AFCON finals as the betting underdog because the stats and history are not in their favour.
Nigeria have made it to the AFCON finals as many as 20 times proving that they are always a force to be reckoned with during AFCON. However, out of the 20 times that they made it to the championship finals, they have only managed to win 3 of those finals.
The first time they won the AFCON Cup was in 1980, the second time was in 1994 and the last time they lifted the championship was in 2013. It’s been a decade since they won the AFCON Championship and a win is long overdue!
They haven’t looked or played like a championship side and just scraped through in the semi-finals after beating South Africa on penalties. The most obvious weakness on display was the fact that they struggled with keeping possession of the ball and had less than 40 percent possession during the game. That’s shocking given the fact that South Africa are ranked in 66th place on the global rankings and Nigeria are ranked in 42nd place.
Nigeria will go into the finals with a lot of pressure on them as they are playing against hosts Ivory Coast and will have the crowd against them. They need to be a lot more offensive against Ivory Coast and that will depend heavily on their mid-field. Their key players are Victor Oshimen who hasn’t delivered during this tournament and Ademola Lookman who has 3 goals in the tournament so far.
Goalie Stanley Nwabili will also need to be on top of his game in the finals or else Nigeria will end up on the losing side of another AFCON final again!
Odds to win: -125 (4/5)
Key Players: Seko Fofana, Sébastien Haller, Yahia Fofana, Simon Adingra
Ivory Coast have won just two AFCON Championships in their history with their last championship win coming back in 2015. They have a fantastic opportunity to add a third championship on home soil in the 2023 AFCON Championship final as they will have massive crowd support and will be full of confidence after beating Congo DR 1-0 in the finals.
Ivory Coast have had a tumultuous tournament that almost saw them get eliminated. They bounced back after suffering an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Equatorial Guinea and losing their head coach John-Louis Gasset as a result of that. They have done well under the new leadership of Emerse Fae and will need to have a strong gameplan if they are going to beat Nigeria in the final.
They will enter the final as the slight betting favourite as they are playing at home and will also have players that have fresher legs given that Nigeria was forced into extra time and a penalty shootout in their semi-final against South Africa. These are big factors to consider in determining who will end up on the winning side.
The big strength for Ivory Coast is that they have a very strong team that play quality football when they end up playing together as a team led by their captain Serge Aurier. We saw that during the semi-finals against Congo DR as they had 57 percent ball possession and registered a total of 377 passes, 99 more passes than their opponents.
For Ivory Coast to win, they will need to ensure that they convert their chances when they get them. Sébastien Haller scored the winning goal in the semi-finals and will once again be one of the danger men. Goalie Yahia Fofana will be tested as Nigeria do have some excellent strikers and he needs to end up having a top game, in order for Ivory Coast to be able to put pressure on the Nigerian defense.
Odds to win: -110 (10/11)
Nigeria haven’t been on top of their game during the tournament but have still managed to make it to the finals. Ivory Coast also had it rough during the initial stages of AFCON 2023 but have looked better with each game and have the home side advantage. Given the fact that Nigeria have only won 3 out of a total of 20 AFCON finals, its going to be hard to back them to win as history and stats are against them.
We expect this to be a closely contested game during the first half of the match but we think Nigeria will struggle in the second half as their semi-final against South Africa took a lot out of their players. Throw in the home crowd support for Ivory Coast and Nigeria’s struggle with maintaining ball possession, the odds tend to lean slightly more in favour of Ivory Coast than Nigeria in our opinion.
Official prediction: We are going to put our money on the hosts Ivory Coast to beat Nigeria 2-1 and win their third AFCON Championship.