Salah, Osimhen and African stars gather in Ivory Coast for the Nations Cup

Salah, Osimhen and African stars gather in Ivory Coast for the Nations Cup

Sadio Mane's Senegal will aim to retain the title, while Mohamed Salah will aim for his first trophy with Egypt at this year's African Cup of Nations, which begins on January 13 in Ivory Coast.

The strong field also includes 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco and a Nigerian team led by Africa's best footballer Victor Osimhen, with organizers hoping that this edition of the continent's trade show will focus solely on soccer. I hope to be guessed.

This is the first time Ivory Coast will host AFCON since 1984. Only eight teams participated this time, and Cameroon, led by Roger Milla, won.

This time, 24 teams will take part in the tournament, which was originally scheduled to be held in June and July last year to avoid conflicts with Europe's top leagues.

However, concerns about holding the tournament during the rainy season ultimately led the Confederation of African Football to revert to the more traditional January and February slot.

focus on security

The last AFCON, held in Cameroon two years ago, was overshadowed by the tragedy that left eight people dead in clashes and crowds at Yaounde's Orembe stadium.

Security is therefore a top priority for organizers this time around, with 1.5 million fans expected to attend from overseas.

The matches will be played in six stadiums in five cities, two of which are in the economic capital Abidjan.

This includes the 60,000-seat Ebimpe Olympic Stadium, which was built specifically for the sport. It will be the venue for the opening match between Ivory Coast and Guinea-Bissau and the final match on February 11th.

Matches will be held in the capital Yamoussoukro and neighboring Bouake, as well as San Pedro on the coast and Corrogo in the north near the border between Mali and Burkina Faso.

Organizers will also be hoping for an improved quality of football this time around than in 2022, when they averaged less than two goals per game.

Since Morocco advanced to the final four at the Qatar tournament just one year ago, they have maintained their momentum as the top ranked team in Africa, and are expected to do well in the future.

Morocco have a squad full of players who belong to some of Europe's best teams, led by Paris Saint-Germain right-back Achraf Hakimi, but Morocco have not won the AFCON since 1976.

“With each successive tournament, we move further away from the day we last won, but that is no reason to put extra pressure on ourselves,'' coach Walid Reglagi recently insisted.

Can Senegal retain the title?

Morocco are in Group F with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Abram Grant's Zambia and Tanzania, and have never won an AFCON tournament.

Senegal is in a tough section next to neighboring Gambia, Bundesliga player Serhau Guirassi, and Cameroon.

Mane and his team are aiming to become the first country to retain the title since Egypt won three in a row from 2006 to 2010.

Senegal coach Aliou Cissé emphasized, “We've only won once, so we really want to go there and win and keep winning.''

Algeria, who won the tournament in 2019, are aiming to make up for their disastrous defeat two years ago, when they were eliminated in the group stage.

Egypt, led by Portuguese coach Rui Vitória, boasts their biggest star in Salah and will aim for a record-extending eighth AFCON title to erase memories of defeats in the 2017 and 2022 finals.

That is what the Egyptians are dreaming of, but Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp, who manages Salah, would like a different outcome given his side are currently chasing the Premier League title.

“From a personal point of view, I would be happy if they could get eliminated in the group stage, but that's probably not possible. They can keep winning,” admitted Klopp.

And although the hosts no longer have the same momentum they had when they last won the title in 2015, captained by Yaya Toure, they will be looking to make the most of their home advantage.

Featuring Bayer Leverkusen sensation Victor Boniface and Osimhen, Nigeria have almost unrivaled attacking depth.

South Africa, on the other hand, are back after missing out on the competition last time out, and the team is relying heavily on Mamelodi Sundowns, the country's leading club team.

The winner of the trophy will receive a record $7 million in prize money, 40% more than champion Senegal won in 2022.


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