Abidjan, Cairo, London (10/1 – 14)
Mohamed Salah should be Egypt’s main weapon in The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) but the fact remains that he seems cursed in this tournament. Egypt will compete in the 34th edition of the biennial African association football tournament organized by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
The 2023 AFCON will be held in Ivory Coast from 13 January to 11 February 2024. Twenty-four teams will compete in 6 cities and 6 groups. Based on the rankings and form, some of the teams can be considered the favorites for winning the tournament.
Senegal is the defending champion with consistency of always reaching the final in the last two editions of The AFCON. Morocco arguably is the main favorite after their historic run at The 2022 FIFA World Cup. The North African nation became the first-ever team from the continent to qualify for The World Cup semifinals.
Three-time AFCON champion Nigeria has rich firepower with Samuel Chukwueze, Victor Boniface, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Victor Osimhen. The latter recently was elected as The African Footballer of the Year.
Egypt should be among the favorites as they are the most successful nation in the cup’s history, winning the tournament seven times. Moreover, Egypt have Mohamed Salah in their ranks who is currently on red-hot performance at Liverpool.
Salah is having one of his best seasons as he already scored 18 goals and made 8 assists in 27 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool just before he went to join Egypt for The 2023 AFCON. Surely with this kind of performance from their star player, Egypt should be very optimistic about their chance to win the AFCON trophy for a record eight times.
Interestingly, Mohamed Salah also brings an aura of pessimistic to Egypt. The 31-year-old seems cursed in this tournament. All of Egypt’s success in The AFCON arrived in a pre-Mohamed Salah world.
When Salah started to play for the national team, Egypt did not qualify in the 2012, 2013, and 2015 edition. He has come agonizingly close twice with his country, being part of the teams that lost the 2017 and 2022 AFCON finals to Cameroon and Senegal respectively.
Salah obviously wants to break his so-called curse. “I want to win this competition,” he said.
“Having come so close twice, I would love to help Egypt win the final and lift the Cup of Nations trophy. I am so happy to play in this wonderful African football tournament and my teammates and I are desperate to succeed.”
The ambition is there but it’s more and more likely that Egypt has become too reliant on one individual that is Salah. Drawn with Ghana, Cape Verde, and Mozambique in Group B, it is widely expected that Egypt will finish first and qualify for the round of 16. But in the knock-out rounds, Egypt would face stronger and more solid opponents.
It could be Morocco in the quarter-finals then Algeria or the host Ivory Coast or Nigeria in the semifinal. These teams could be a problem for Mohamed Salah and Co.
The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations
Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau
Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique
Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, Gambia
Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola
Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia
Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania