The 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) is scheduled to be held in Ivory Coast in January and February 2024. The football tournament is normally held in the January and February of the competition year, but it was postponed to summer due to the just concluded World Cup held during November and December of 2022.
But due to the high temperatures during the summer in Ivory Coast, the tournament was further postponed to the January and February of 2024. 24 teams will compete in the 2023 AFCON competition, and it is the first time this number of teams are playing. Before the final 24 teams are selected and put in their different groups, the teams have to play the AFCON qualifiers. In this article, we go over the main event of the AFCON qualifiers and the stages already played.
How Does AFCON Qualification Work?
Before the main AFCON competition, there is a qualification to select the 24 teams that will play in the main tournament. The AFCON qualifiers are played over a series of matches, and at the end, the teams with the highest points become the teams contesting in addition to the host country, which automatically qualifies.
The qualification starts with a draw. This draw is to divide the 54 participating national football teams into two groups. The first group consists of the highest 42 teams in Africa, which went straight to the group qualifying stage.
The remaining 12 teams were set up to play each other in home and away matches to select the remaining 6 teams to join the other 43 teams in the AFCON qualifiers.
These 12 teams played the preliminary round with the following fixtures.
|Team 1||Team 2||1st leg||2nd leg||Final Score|
|Sao Tome and Principe||Mauritius||1-0||3-3||4-3|
The first leg of the matches took place between 23-24 March 2022, while the second leg took place between 27-29 March 2022. The teams in bold are those that qualified for the qualifying group stages.
For the first match, the match was forfeited by the Eritrea team, so the Botswana team qualified automatically. The other matches were played, and the winning team entered the qualifying group stage.
Before the group stage matches, the 48 teams were divided into 4 pots labelled pot 1 to pot 4 and contained 12 teams. The teams were shared according to their World ranking in March 2022.
The next part of the group stage was the draw on the 19th of April. The different teams were drawn from pots, starting from pot 4. Each team drawn entered the available group at the position of the pot number it was drawn from. The groups were filled alphabetically, so the draw started from A to L.
The host country, Ivory Coast, is part of the draw, even though they have automatic qualification. But they will play the qualification matches to decide the fate of the other three teams. So only the runners-up in their group will qualify.
Unfortunately, for these AFCON qualifiers, two countries, Kenya and Zimbabwe, were temporarily suspended before the qualifiers began. Even though these two countries were part of the draw, they would be allowed to play if the suspensions were lifted two weeks before the qualifying group stage matches began. It was not lifted, so they couldn’t play, and there were two groups with just 3 teams in the qualifiers.
Here are the different groups for the qualifying group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations 2023.
The teams in Group A for the Qualifying round include Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome and Principe. Every team will play each other in a home-away round-robin format. After the first two matches, Nigeria leads the group with 6 points. After the final match, this group’s winner and runner-up will qualify for the AFCON competition.
|4||Sao Tome and Principe||2||0|
The teams in Group B include Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Eswatini, and Togo. After 2 matches, Burkina Faso tops the group with 6 points. After completing the group stage, the top team and the runner-up will compete in AFCON 2023.
Group C is the group with one of the disqualified teams, Kenya. So the remaining 3 teams in this group will struggle among themselves to get the top spot and runner-up to compete in the AFCON 2023 in Ivory Coast.
The teams in Group D are Ethiopia, Malawi, Guinea and Egypt, all very formidable teams in their own right. As of this moment, after 2 matches, the spoils are shared, and each team has 3 points. Hopefully, there are clear winners by the end of this group stage.
In Group E are Ghana, Angola, Central African Republic and Madagascar. There is stiff competition after 2 matches, with the top two teams sharing 4 points while the last two have 1 point apiece.
|3||Central African Republic||2||1|
For Group F, the teams are Algeria, Niger, Tanzania, and Uganda. Algeria is finding the group easy, leading with 6 points after 2 matches. The runner-up position is all to fight for among the remaining 3 teams.
In Group G we have Mali, Congo, Gambia, and South Sudan. Even though Mali leads after two matches, there is still hope for the Congo and Gambia over the next 4 matches.
Group H contains the host country Ivory Coast with Zambia, Comoros, and Lesotho. So these last 3 teams must compete to become the runner-up or the group leader if Ivory Coast slacks. We will see the results of their efforts after the last 4 matches.
In Group I, there is Mauritiana, Gabon, Sudan, and DR Congo. The difference among the top three teams is not clear yet, even though Mauritius leads by 4 points, but the next two teams are at 3 points each, placing pressure on the group leader.
In group J we see Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, and Botswana. Tunisia is showing their might early on with a 6-point lead, followed closely by Equatorial Guinea. The other two teams are lagging behind and will take a miracle to snatch the two top spots after the qualifying group stage ends.
Group K is the second group with a disqualified team, leaving the contest to the remaining 3 teams to get the winner and runner-up position so they can compete in the main AFCON tournament.
The final group in the AFCON qualifiers is Group L, with Senegal, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Benin. After 2 matches, Senegal leads the group with 6 points, and Mozambique is close by with 4 points. However, there is still so much to play for in the remaining 4 matches of the qualifying group stage.
To conclude this article about the AFCON qualifiers, we answer some questions concerning the tournament.
The qualification matches are still ongoing, and it is still too early to know the teams that will advance beyond the qualifying group stage to the main competition. However, we know that Ivory Coast, as the host, has already qualified.
24 teams qualify for AFCON.
No Uganda has not qualified for AFCON 2023 and is the last team in their group qualifiers. To qualify, the team needs to win at least 3 of the next 4 matches.