Football Features

AFCON 2024 favourites, predictions, tips & most exciting players

By James Amey

Published: 14:30, 23 January 2024

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (in 2024) is underway.

The 34th edition of the tournament kicked off last week with hosts Côte d’Ivoire beating Guinea-Bissau 2-0, we’re already finishing off the first round of group stage fixtures. This year’s edition is expected to be one of the most openly contested tournaments recently. It will be just the third time where we will see 24 teams take part since the expansion in 2019, with even more sides now looking to get their hands on the famous trophy.

Read on to find out which nations are the favourites to win the tournament, our wildcard picks and predictions, and the most exciting players who will be participating.


Afcon latest accumulator

Tuesday, 23 January


Who are the favourites to lift the trophy?

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS OUTRIGHT ODDS
Squawka

*Odds correct as of 14:00 on January 23

Morocco (3/1)

  • Manager: Walid Regragui
  • Best AFCON finish: Winners (1976)
  • 2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

After an incredible World Cup campaign in 2022 that saw Morocco become the first-ever African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final, all eyes will be the Atlas Lions to see if they can replicate that form at the Africa Cup of Nations and go one step further. Walid Regragui remains in charge and is tasked with improving on their disappointing recent results at AFCON, having not gone past the quarter-final stage since way back in 2004 when they finished runners-up to hosts Tunisia.

Many of their stars from the World Cup will be looking to put their names up in lights once more, including goalkeeper Bono, Achraf Hakimi, Sofyan Amrabat, Nayef Aguerd, Hakim Ziyech and Amine Harit, to name a few.


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Senegal (10/3)

  • Manager: Aliou Cisse
  • Best AFCON finish: Winners (2021)
  • 2021 AFCON finish: Winners

“It just shows that if you work hard, if you persevere, you will get what you want; I am very emotional because the people of Senegal have wanted this trophy for 60 years.” These were the words of head coach Aliou Cisse after he guided Senegal to their first-ever AFCON trophy in 2021, as they put their final defeat to Algeria two years prior firmly behind them. A 4-2 penalty shootout over Egypt in the final saw talisman Sadio Mané makes history, as not only did he score the winning penalty, the then Liverpool man also became his country’s all-time goalscorer and became the first ever Senegalese player to be named AFCON Player of the Tournament.

Favourites to lift the trophy in 2024 and become the first side to win back-to-back tournaments since Egypt in 2008 and 2010, the Lions of Teranga have a host of top-quality players to call upon for the tournament, including the aforementioned Sadio Mané, Kalidou Koulibaly, Edouard Mendy and Premier League stars Nicolas Jackson, Pape Matar Sarr and Idrissa Gana Gueye. And they were very comfortable in their opening 3-0 win over Gambia.

Côte d’Ivoire (8/1)

  • Manager: Jean-Louis Gasset
  • Best AFCON finish: Winners (1992, 2015)
  • 2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

Having not gone past the quarter-final stage since winning the competition in 2015, Côte d’Ivoire hopes home advantage can help them as they look to become the first host nation to win the tournament since Egypt in 2006. After going unbeaten in the group stages during the last tournament, many people expected them to go far. Still, a 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to eventual runners-up Egypt in the first knockout round ended their tournament before it even began.

After failing to qualify for their second consecutive World Cup, this home tournament is set to be one where they can give back to their fans and hopefully become three-time AFCON champions after their success in 1992 and 2015. The hosts made a great start with a 2-0 win over Guinea-Bissau in their opening match.

Wildcards

Burkina Faso (33/1)

  • Manager: Hubert Velud
  • Best AFCON finish: Runners-up (2013)
  • 2021 AFCON finish: Semi-finals

Not many people have given Burkina Faso a chance for this year’s AFCON, but if their performances in recent tournaments are anything to go by, they may be the dark horses again. In the last 10 years, Burkina Faso have made it to at least the semi-final stage in three of the four tournaments they have qualified for, finishing as runners-up to Nigeria in 2013, before a third-place finish in 2017 and finishing fourth last time out in 2021.

At 33/1, they are a long shot, but they may give you a run for your money. Burkina Faso did win their opening game, beating Mauritania thanks to a late penalty.

Nigeria (8/1)

  • Manager: Jose Peseiro
  • Best AFCON finish: Winners (1980, 1994, 2013)
  • 2021 AFCON finish: Last 16

Despite being drawn alongside hosts Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria will be confident of making it out of the group and going far into the tournament. The Super Eagles have some incredible firepower, with the likes of Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze and Kelechi Iheanacho all able to change a game at the flick of a switch, but they will need to improve on their disappointing 2021 campaign that saw them knocked out in the last 16 at the hands of Tunisia.

Nigeria could only manage a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea but responded with a 1-0 win over Côte d’Ivoire.

Top five most exciting players

Victor Osimhen

 

  • Country: Nigeria
  • Club: Napoli
  • Caps: 31

In the build-up to the tournament, Nigeria suffered the blow of an injury to Victor Boniface. The 22-year-old scored 16 goals and provided eight more assists in his first 22 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen across all competitions. His absence means that there will be more pressure on Victor Osimhen to get the goals.

The Napoli striker has scored a healthy 21 goals in 28 caps for Nigeria and played just 45 minutes at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Last season for Napoli, Osimhen scored 26 goals in 32 matches, and while he has suffered from injury this campaign, the 25-year-old has still netted seven in 13 in Serie A. He was on the scoresheet for Nigeria, though, in their opening draw with Equatorial Guinea, his first goal at a major tournament for the Super Eagles.

Mohamed Salah

  • Country: Egypt
  • Club: Liverpool
  • Caps: 96

Mohamed Salah will be champing at the bit to help his side win AFCON this season after cruelly being denied his first trophy after a penalty shootout defeat to Senegal in 2019. The forward has continued to break record after record at club level this season, becoming the first African player to score 150 Premier League goals, the first non-British player to score 200 goals for Liverpool, and the African player with the most assists in Premier League history. His late penalty secured Egypt a point against Mozambique, but he sustained a hamstring injury in Egypt’s 2-2 draw with Ghana, but he could return if the Pharaohs reach the final.

Achraf Hakimi 

  • Country: Morocco
  • Club: PSG
  • Caps: 71

Achraf Hakimi had a World Cup to remember. Not only did he help his side become the first African side to reach a World Cup tournament, but he finished with more tackles than any other player in the competition (26). He scored an incredible Panenka in the penalty shootout against Spain to knock them out. In his previous AFCON tournament, the full-back scored free kicks in consecutive matches against Gabon and Malawi. What will this tournament hold?

Serhou Guirassy  

  • Country: Guinea
  • Club: Stuttgart
  • Caps: 13

Serhou Guirassy has been one of the surprise players in Europe’s top five leagues in 2023/24, helping fire Stuttgart to their second-best start to a Bundesliga season. With 17 goals in his opening 14 league matches, the forward is in red-hot form in front of goal, becoming just one of three players after Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane to score 10+ goals in the opening five games of a Bundesliga campaign, as well notching two hat-tricks so far.

With goals against Egypt, Brazil and Gabon for his country, Guirassy hopes to add to his goal tally on the international stage and fire Guinea into the knockout rounds. He missed the opening game due to injury and was an unused substitute against The Gambia his last time out.

Mohammed Kudus 

  • Country: Ghana
  • Club: West Ham
  • Caps: 30

After a breakout season at Ajax that saw him complete more take-ons than any other Eredivisie player (91) and complete a higher percentage of his dribbles than any other player in Europe’s top seven leagues (67.9%) in 2022/23, the forward made a big money move to the Premier League and West Ham United this summer where he has continued to impress. After 24 games and 18 starts, the 23-year-old has already found the back of the net nine times across all competitions, winning possession more times per 90 than any other Premier League player with 500 minutes this season (8.61) and becoming one of the first names on the Hammers’ team sheet.

At the World Cup in 2022, Kudus also made a name for himself on the international stage, becoming the second youngest African player to score 2+ goals in a World Cup match after Ahmed Musa in 2014, as well as completing more take-ons (9) than any other player in Group H. He missed the tournament’s opening game through injury before netting a brace against Egypt; another draw against Mozambique — which saw Ghana throw away a two-goal lead — leaves the Black Stars’ progression hanging in the balance.

Predictions

Winner

Egypt (16/1)

After missing out on penalties in 2021 and finishing as runners-up to Senegal, Egypt will look to go one step further and bring home the trophy in 2024. Egypt is expected to cruise through the knockout rounds even with their rocky start. With Salah- who has been directly involved in 22 goals in 20 Premier League appearances this season – on your side, you can beat any side on your day, but they’ll potentially be without him until the final.

Top Goalscorer

Victor Osimhen 

The Napoli striker has an incredible goalscoring record for Nigeria, with 21 goals in just 28 appearances for the Super Eagles, including his first at this tournament. Osimhen missed Nigeria’s three games before the tournament with injury, and they struggled without him. He’s scored 11 goals in his past eight matches, so it’s easy to see just how important he is to Nigeria.

Squawka’s best bet

Morocco to top Group F @ 1/8 with Bet365 

Morocco has made it to the knockout rounds in the last three AFCON tournaments and will want to show what they can do again after an incredible World Cup campaign. Drawn in a group with DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania, they should have a problem finishing at the top of Group F.

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