Afcon 2023: Senegal defend title as Mohamed Salah eyes win with Egypt

IVORY COAST (BBC) — Mohamed Salah will be looking to captain Egypt to a record-extending eighth triumph when the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) gets under way in Ivory Coast on Saturday after finishing as a runner-up with the Pharaohs twice.

The Liverpool forward missed out on penalties in the 2021 Afcon final against Senegal, with former Reds team-mate Sadio Mane netting the winning spot-kick.

The defending champions are firmly among the favourites to lift the trophy but face threats from across the continent – with the unpredictability of the tournament underlined by the fact the past seven editions have produced seven different winners.

Morocco are Africa’s top-ranked team at 13th in the world after their historic run to the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup, while Nigeria can boast the striking firepower of African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen.

Hosts Ivory Coast are bidding for a first title since 2015 and Algeria will be searching for a vast improvement after crashing out as holders in the group stage two years ago.

“I cannot recall a stronger field,” Senegal forward Mane, who now plays his club football in Saudi Arabia, said.

“All the giants are going to be in Ivory Coast and all of them will be plotting to dethrone us. I believe [this] Nations Cup will be the toughest to win.”

The 24-team format will see the top two in each of the six groups qualify for the last 16, with the four best third-placed sides also progressing to the knockout stages where the overall winners will pick up $7m (£5.5m) in prize money.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in June and July last year, but has been shifted to early 2024 to avoid the rainy season in West Africa.


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