AFCON 2023 Highlights: A Special Type of AFCON – Champions, Overachievers, Underachievers And More

The 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) stands out as perhaps the most memorable edition to date, wouldn’t you say? This competition, filled with both joyful and challenging moments, will linger in our memories for some time.

Started on Saturday, January 13th and wrapped up on Sunday, February 11th, the tournament saw South Africa’s Bafana Bafana securing third place, Nigeria’s Super Eagles clinching second, and the host nation Cote D’Ivoire emerging as the victorious champions for the third time in their history.

Although the tournament has ended, it’s crucial to look back on some of the standout moments from Africa’s top international football competition for senior men.

An Afcon To Remember For The Hosts 

This year’s AFCON will be etched into the memories of Ivorians, both at home and abroad, for quite some time, largely due to the manner in which they emerged champions. Their journey was filled with ups and downs, notably losing to Nigeria in their second group stage match and suffering a significant defeat to Equatorial Guinea, leaving their hopes of advancing to the knockout stage hanging by a thread.

Amidst this uncertainty, they made a bold move by parting ways with head coach Jean-Louis Gasset, handing over control to assistant coach Emerse Fae. The outcome? Ivory Coast triumphed in their next four matches, overcoming the odds after barely scraping through the group stage with just three points.

The Elephants clinched the continent’s most prestigious title for the third time in their history. The unexpected and unimaginable part was that this third triumph occurred on their home turf.

The Underachievers

It’s well-known that North African teams struggle in AFCON tournaments held in sub-Saharan Africa, a trend evident once again in this year’s competition. Despite optimism after Morocco’s World Cup performance, both Algeria and Tunisia were eliminated in the group stage, where only eight teams exited. Egypt was knocked out in the round of 16 after a penalty shootout loss to DR Congo, while Morocco suffered a surprising 2-0 defeat to South Africa in the quarter-finals.

The Overachievers

This tournament was all about teams that were not expected to do well, countries such as Mauritania and Cape Verde secured places in the knockout stage of the AFCON tournament. Cape Verde stood out in Group B by finishing at least four points ahead of Ghana and Egypt. However, they lost in a penalty shootout to South Africa, who also did better than expected. Led by coach Hugo Broos, South Africa, mainly made up of players who play in their own country, surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals.

Record Breaking Amount Of Goals 

This year’s AFCON didn’t disappoint when it came to the quality and quantity of goals scored throughout the tournament. The competition concluded with a total of 119 goals, including three in the final match, which was 19 more than the previous edition. 

Take a look below for some of the most stunning goals we witnessed.

The Memes Kept On Coming 

The memes from this tournament perfectly captured the highs and lows experienced throughout the event. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most viral ones, giving you a sense of just how entertaining the tournament was.

More Women Getting Involved

It’s not accurate to say that women naturally don’t like football, as there are many female football fans around the world. However, it’s true that the involvement of women in football has often been overlooked or underrepresented. This year’s AFCON, however, was different. We saw increased participation and engagement of women from across the continent and beyond, which was refreshing and welcomed. 

Nigeria Might Have Found Their New Goalkeeper

Throughout the tournament, Nigerian goalkeeper Stanley Bobo Nwabali was a hot topic of conversation among Nigerians almost every matchday. His incredible saves sparked discussions, particularly during the penalty shootout against South Africa in the semifinals. Another talking point was the resemblance between him and former Super Eagles No. 1, Vincent Enyeama. 

Many Nigerians believed that their similar head shapes played a role, suggesting that goalkeepers with this specific head shape should be given priority in the future.

Final Thoughts

With the quality of football, officiating and presentation at this year’s AFCON tournament, it is safe to say that the competition keeps getting better and better each time than the previous. We hope this continues into the next one.

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Written by Seunfunmi Joshua

Seunfunmi is a Publicist, Filmmaker, Writer & Producer of Live Events..

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