AFCON 2023: Group A preview - Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

AFCON 2023: Group A preview - Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau

  • In the battle of West and Central African neighbours, Nigeria have been drawn together with hosts Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau in Group A of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
  • EaglesTracker previews the teams in this group and their chances of making it to the knockout round.

NIGERIA

Of the four teams in Group A, the Super Eagles, ranked sixth-best national team on the continent, are the most successful at the AFCON.

Nigeria have won the AFCON three times - only Egypt, Cameroon, and Ghana have lifted the trophy more - and boast another four silver medals.

With a fourth honour in view, the Super Eagles are making their 20th appearance at the championship, where they have won 53 games, drawn 22, and lost 22 of 97 games.

Nigeria qualified for AFCON 2023 in style: Jose Peseiro's men won five of six qualifying games and scored a competition-high 22 goals.

The Eagles boast some of the most fearsome attackers in the world and will be a difficult opponent to overcome for anyone on their day.

Only twice - in 1963 and 1982 - in 19 previous appearances have Nigeria not made it past the group stage at the AFCON, and they will be favourites to advance at the expense of their West and Central African neighbours in Ivory Coast.

The first time Ivory Coast hosted the AFCON in 1984, a young, inexperienced Nigerian side defied all odds to reach the final where they were beaten 3-1 by Cameroon.

The Super Eagles will aim to go all the way this time.

  • Key player - Napoli's Victor Osimhen
  • Head coach - Jose Peseiro
  • FIFA Ranking - 42

IVORY COAST

Despite already having their spot guaranteed as hosts, Ivory Coast still went through the motions of the qualifying campaign and finished as Group H runners-up behind Zambia.

This is the second time in history Ivory Coast is hosting the AFCON, with the Elephants failing to make it past the group stage in their first time as hosts in 1984.

The Ivorians are a more formidable opponent these days after winning the AFCON in 1992 and 2015. They will aim to make it the 12th time a country hosted and won the continental championship.

While the Elephants will consider Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau beatable, their clash with Nigeria is unpredictable, with the winner likely to end as Group A winners.

However, they have a decent head-to-head record over Nigeria - three wins, three draws, and two defeats at the AFCON - and will fancy their chances of outsmarting the Super Eagles to be Group A leaders.

  • Key player - Borussia Dortmund's Sébastien Haller.
  • Head coach - Jean-Louis Gasset
  • FIFA Ranking - 49

EQUATORIAL GUINEA

Equatorial Guinea's first-ever appearance at the AFCON was in 2012. Still, it was a memorable debut as they stunned the rest of the continent to reach the quarterfinals after beating Senegal and Libya.

Three years later, the central African nation hosted the tournament and pulled off a few stunning results, including beating Tunisia to finish in fourth place - their best result to date.

At the 2021 AFCON, the National Thunder remarkably made it past a group that had Ivory Coast, Algeria, and Sierra Leone after recording a shock victory over the North African giants, who were cup holders at the time.

Having reached at least the quarterfinals in each of their three previous participation at the AFCON, it would be foolhardy to bet against the Nzalang Nacional in Ivory Coast.

Equatorial Guinea had no trouble qualifying for the 2023 AFCON, as they matched Tunisia in number of wins (4) and points (13) and only finished as Group J runners-up behind the North Africans on goal difference.

Over the past 12 months, the National Thunder have defeated Tunisia, Cameroon, and Liberia, and they will head to Ivory Coast confident of creating more AFCON history.

  • Key player - Club Africain's Federico Bikoro
  • Head coach - Juan Micha Obing
  • FIFA Ranking - 88

GUINEA-BISSAU

Guinea-Bissau are in Ivory Coast to participate in their fourth African Cup of Nations, with their three early appearances ending in the group stage. The tiny West African Nation is yet to win a game at the AFCON, clinching only three draws and six losses in their nine matches.

With the Djurtus drawn in Group A with Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria, making it past the first round for the first time looks near impossible.

The Bissau Guineans can, however, take a lot of confidence from their performances during the qualifying campaign.

Placed in the same group as Nigeria, the Djurtus won four of their six matches, including a historic 1-0 win over the Super Eagles in Abuja, to finish as Group A runners-up.

The AFCON proper will be a different ball game, but the Djurtus now have the quality and experience to be the giant killers at the tournament.

  • Key player - Lyon's Mama Baldé
  • Head coach - Baciro Candé
  • FIFA Ranking - 103

MATCHES

  • January 13: Ivory Coast vs Guinea-Bissau
  • January 14: Nigeria vs Equatorial Guinea
  • January 18: Nigeria vs Ivory Coast
  • January 18: Equatorial Guinea vs Guinea-Bissau
  • January 22: Nigeria vs Guinea-Bissau
  • January 22: Ivory Coast vs Equatorial Guinea
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