AFCON 2023: The top group stage highlights


As the dust settles on the group stage of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023, the tournament bids farewell to some, while others brace themselves for the knockout battles ahead.

The group stage, concluded on Wednesday, saw exhilarating moments, historic achievements, and surprising exits.

One of the standout stories of the tournament so far is Mauritania’s historic qualification for the round of 16.

Not only did they secure a spot in the knockout stages for the first time, but they also celebrated their inaugural TotalEnergies CAF AFCON victory by defeating Algeria in a thrilling encounter.

The Lions of Chinguetti, who had gone winless in their previous eight AFCON matches, displayed resilience and determination to make history.

Senegal, the Lions of Teranga, also etched their mark on the group stage by making it three out of three for the first time in the competition’s history. With an impressive goal difference of 8 scored against 1 conceded, Senegal looks like a formidable force as they advance to the knockout rounds.

On the flip side, defending champions Algeria endured a disappointing campaign, exiting the tournament in the group stage for the second consecutive time.

The Fennecs failed to secure a victory in their group matches, managing only two points in 2023 after collecting one point in 2021, marking a surprising turn of events for the reigning champions.

The clash between Mozambique and Ghana set a new record for the highest number of penalties in a single TotalEnergies CAF African Cup of Nations match, with three goals scored from the spot (1 for Mozambique and 2 for Ghana).

The intensity of the matches was further highlighted by Equatorial Guinean Emilio Nsue, who finished the group stage as the second-highest goal-scorer with 5 goals, echoing the legendary Ivorian, Laurent Pokou’s, performance in 1970.

Nigeria continued to add to their storied AFCON history by reaching the knockout stage for the 15th consecutive time, a record that solidifies their dominance in the competition.

Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire suffered a setback against Equatorial Guinea, facing their biggest defeat in AFCON history with a margin of 4 goals.

Off the pitch, the tournament bid farewell to five coaches who left their posts at the end of the group stages. Tom Saintfiet (Gambia), Chris Hughton (Ghana), Jalel Kadri (Tunisia), Djamel Belmadi (Algeria), and Jean-Louis Gasset (Cote d’Ivoire) now make way for new leadership.

The group stage also witnessed some goalless draws, with three matches ending 0-0 – Namibia versus Mali, Tanzania against DR Congo, and Tunisia facing off against South Africa. In total, 24 goals were scored in the final round of group matches, a notable decrease from the goal-rich second day of the group stage, which saw a total of 38 goals.

As the tournament transitions into the knockout stages, the teams prepare for do-or-die encounters, and fans eagerly await more thrilling moments in the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023.

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