Anticipation is building for the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), which will begin on Saturday, 23 January 2024 in the Ivory Coast. Senegal are the current champions, having achieved victory over inaugural champions and seven-time winners Egypt in the 2021 AFCON.
The final was a dramatic one that went all the way to a deciding penalty shootout. Senegal kept the coolest heads of the two teams, defeating the Egyptians 4-2 in the shootout and walking away with the trophy.
AFCON is the most prestigious football tournament in African football and a stage for Africa’s most gifted footballers to showcase their talent. African football fans will see some of the nation’s biggest stars return from clubs across the world and play on the soil of their home continent once more. Below is a look at some of the players likely to be on international duty at the tournament.
Liverpool are sure to be handing over Mohamed Salah for a few games if Egypt make good progress in the championship. If Saudi Pro League side Al-Ittihad have their way, though, and sign Salah, having Salah missing from the team will be their problem, not the Merseyside club’s.
The Egyptian is one of the most feared forwards in football, thanks to his electrifying pace, his ability to create shooting opportunities, his exceptional dribbling and comfort working in tight spaces. He’s also a tireless worker and presses hard to win the ball back when the team lose possession.
Salah has scored 55 goals in 95 appearances for The Pharoahs.
Sadio Mane broke many hearts by leaving Liverpool in 2022 for Bayern Munich. Today, he plays for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia’s Pro League, but is likely to receive a call-up from Senegal, one of the favourites to win the tournament according to the football betting odds.
The winger is sure to receive a warm welcome from Senegalese fans, who will remember how Mane scored the winning spot-kick for their country to go home with a maiden title. The Senegal national team will likewise receive Mane with open arms and hope to make use of his blistering pace, his comfort in one-on-one situations and his ability to create brief windows to shoot at goal.
Thomas Partey had a disappointing finish to the 2022/23 season for Arsenal, but Mikel Arteta is backing the Ghanaian, who will probably be playing at the base of midfield for his national side at AFCON. The defensive midfielder works hard and has a real presence when the team aren’t on the ball, due to the fact he presses so hard and makes challenges with such conviction.
Partey can make long passes and, even when he’s deep inside his own half, is confident in his dribbling. This proves useful in drawing opponents to the ball, leaving space for team mates. Partey, in general, likes to play forward wherever possible, especially through his passing.
Chelsea went on a bit of spending spree in the summer. One of the players in their transfer market shopping trolley was Nicolas Jackson, who went on a goal-scoring rampage towards the end of last season with Spanish club Villarreal.
The chances are the Chelsea man will be joining Sadio Mane upfront for Senegal. The 22-year-old has scored seven goals in 13 league starts for Chelsea so far this season. He can create his own openings, as he has quick feet and can make space between himself and defenders to get his shots off.
He’s confident carrying the ball, happy to pick it up out wide or from deep in the centre. His movement off the ball is also tremendous and he gets behind defenders easily.
Nottingham Forest right-back Serge Aurier will be delighted to be playing in front of a home crowd when he plays at AFCON. The Ivory Coast international has played for Toulouse and Tottenham Hotspur in the past and his national side will welcome his experience as he performs his international duties.
If the Ivory Coast were to win AFCON, it wouldn’t be Aurier’s first time as he helped them to lift the trophy in 2015. The versatile defender shows immense energy down the right-hand side, and demonstrates real leadership capabilities, has put in some beautiful and crucial crosses for Forest in games and also lent several assists to help his side get ahead. The Ivory Coast will be looking for him to do the same at AFCON.
AFCON 2023 will be an incredible tournament and the anticipation for it is building. Other Premier League stars likely to receive a call-up for international duty include Manchester United’s Andre Onana for Cameroon, Brentford’s Yoane Wissa for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bournemouth’s Antoine Semenyo for Ghana.