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The five most successful nations in AFCON history

The Africa Cup of Nations begins this week in the latest instalment of the continent’s most prestigious tournament.

Senegal will enter the tournament as holders after winning a maiden AFCON title in 2021, with the Lions of Teranga heading to the Ivory Coast to defend their crown. There’s a whole host of nations who will be targeting AFCON success this time around, as a competitive competition prepares to get underway.

Ahead of finals – rescheduled to this month from its initial date last summer – we’ve looked at the most successful nations in AFCON history.

The five most successful nations in AFCON history:

5. DR Congo, Algeria, Ivory Coast – 2 titles

DR Congo, Algeria and Ivory Coast have been crowned champions of Africa on two occasions, with the former first to win the crown in 1968. That success came with a largely Belgium-based side, as The Leopards beat Ghana 1-0 in a final held in Ethiopia.

Six years later, DR Congo – then known as Zaire – recaptured the AFCON title, beating Zambia in a replayed final. Ndaye Mulamba scored nine goals at the 1974 tournament for the winners, which remains an AFCON record.

Algeria claimed their first AFCON title on home soil in 1990. Having thrashed Nigeria 5-1 in the group stage, Chérif Oudjani’s goal was the difference in a 1-0 rematch in the tournament’s final. The Greens claimed their second AFCON crown in 2019, beating Senegal 1-0.

Riyad Mahrez scored a stunning stoppage-time winner in the semi-final against Nigeria, while former Arsenal academy graduate Ismaël Bennacer was named as the tournament’s Best Player for his role in Algeria’s triumph.

The Ivory Coast needed a marathon penalty shootout to beat Ghana in the 1992 edition, as the final shootout ended in an 11-10 success for The Elephants. It was the first major tournament final in history that saw every player on the pitch take a spot-kick.

The Ivorians won a second AFCON title in 2015, again beating Ghana on spot-kicks.

4. Nigeria – 3 titles

Nigeria are three-time winners of the Africa Cup of Nations.

The Super Eagles are one of the most respected football nations in Africa, having triumphed at AFCON in 1980, 1994 and 2013, in addition to becoming the first African team to win gold at the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

The most recent of Nigeria’s triumphs saw the nation beat Bukina Faso 1-0 in the final in South Africa. Former West Ham loanee Emmanuel Emenike was the tournament’s joint-leading scorer for Nigeria, with five goals.

3. Ghana – 4 titles

Ghana will be hoping to end a 42-year wait for AFCON success this year, with the most recent of the nation’s four titles coming in 1982.

Ghana were one of the dominant forces of the early AFCON tournaments, winning two of the first five finals after back-to-back triumphs in 1963 and 1965. A third triumph arrived in 1978 for the Black Stars after beating Uganda in the final, before becoming the first four-time winners four years later.

Two of Ghana’s AFCON wins have come when hosting the tournament.

2. Cameroon – 5 titles

Cameroon are the joint-most successful nation in AFCON history during the 21st century, with three of their five titles coming since 2000.

The Indomitable Lions reached three consecutive finals during the 1980s, winning AFCON titles in 1984 and 1988. Cameroon beat Nigeria in each of those two deciders, while losing to Egypt in the 1986 final.

Several of the successful 1988 side went on to represent Cameroon in the 1990 World Cup, where Valery Nepomnyashchy’s side became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals, during a memorable run that included victory over world champions Argentina.

A second Golden Generation emerged for Cameroon in the early 2000s. Samuel Eto’o spearheaded a side that won back-to-back AFCON titles in 2000 and 2002, beating Nigeria and Senegal on penalties respectively. Cameroon also reached the final of the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2003, a tournament that was overshadowed by the on-field collapse and passing of midfielder Marc-Vivien Foé in the semi-final.

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Cameroon won their fifth AFCON title in 2017. Vincent Aboubakar scored an 88th minute winner as Cameroon came from behind to beat Egypt in the final.

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1. Egypt – 7 titles

The most successful side in AFCON history is Egypt, with the North African nation record seven-time winners of the competition.

Egypt have a storied history of success at the Africa Cup of Nations and became the first team to win three consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010.

That 2010 triumph remains the most recent on the résumé of The Pharaohs, who finished as runners-up in 2017 and 2021.

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Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah will be aiming to win a long-awaited title in 2023, following those near misses in recent tournaments. Egypt’s most celebrated footballer has scored 55 goals in 96 appearances for the national team.

Read – AFCON 2023: Five players to watch out for

See more – One realistic signing to improve each ‘Big Six’ club in January

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