AFCON 2023 Group E Preview and Predictions: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa and Namibia

AFCON 2023 Group E Preview and Predictions: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa and Namibia

Jarryd Westerdale
updated at January 8, 2024 at 7:13 PM
In this article:
CAF Africa Cup of Nations logo
Mali logo
Tunisia logo
Namibia logo
South Africa U23 logo
South Africa U23
South Africa
  • AFCON 2023 Group E consists of Mali, Tunisia, Namibia and South Africa
  • Tunisia are the top-ranked team in the Group with Namibia being the lowest
  • Group E's games will be played at the Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo

The seconds are ticking down and the fans would have plotted each possible permutation for the knockout round.

Group E has been considered one of the groups of death with former champions, talent-oozing flair and plucky underdogs.

Sports Brief lays out the participants' strengths and offers a guide on what to expect from the four hopefuls, listed according to their FIFA Ranking.

AFCON 2023 Group E, South Africa, Mali, Namibia, Tunisia, Preview.
AFCON 2023 Group E features Themba Zwane, Yves Bissouma, Peter Shalulile and Ellyes Skhiri among others. Photos: @YELL0WMAN, @BhekiNyathi, @TheFPLManual and @VScout.
Source: Twitter

AFCON Group E Preview

28. Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles are a team built more on rigid discipline and technical consistency than flair or individual brilliance.

They only conceded once in qualifying and have made the quarter-finals in nine of the last 10 AFCONs, coming fourth in 2019 and winning the whole thing in 2010.

Pinpoint finisher Youssef Msakni and industrious midfielder Ellyes Skhiri epitomise their precise pragmatism going forward, while Montassir Talbi and Oussama Haddadi personify their solidity at the back.

Expect Tunisia to easily progress from Group E. They should get a result in their opener against Namibia, earn at least a draw against Mali and avoid defeat to South Africa.

51. Mali

Mali has a great mix of unpredictable flair and the composure to make it count, although questions remain about their ability to be consistent throughout a tournament.

They will sadly miss several key players through injury but Saint Ettienne's Ibrahim Sissoko and Red Bull Salzburg's pacy Dorgeles Nene will still be dangerous goal threats.

The midfield still has bundles class with Lassana Coulibaly and Aliou Dieng complimenting Mohamed Camara and Yves Bissouma.

Their defence is no pushover either, concerning just twice in their six AFCON qualifiers as they finished top of their group with five wins.

Progress from Group E does not hinge on their opener against Bafana Bafana, but their midfield has the potential to run them ragged. Three points against South Africa will be followed up with a draw against Tunisia before ending the group with a win against Namibia.

66. South Africa

This AFCON will either be a celebration of the DStv Premiership's strength or an indictment of South African players' reliance on their domestic comfort zone.

With respect to the Cypriot league and Portugal's second division, Percy Tau is the only recognisable international talent in South Africa's squad, but even CAF's Interclub Player of the Year is based on the continent.

This could prove favourable as they will be used to African conditions, but their opponents will be used to quality opposition. Their biggest strength is their Mamelodi Sundowns core but will need some magic to fill the gaps.

South Africa will be tight in defence and will they apply caution in midfield, relying on individual moments to win games. They can be schizophrenic too, either fluid and adventurous as against Ivory Coast recently, or dismal as seen against Rwanda in their last match.

South Africa will be lucky to get anything against Mali's superior midfield first up and if they need a win against Tunisia they will find themselves picked off.

Their hopes hinge on beating Namibia in the PSL derby, but without an avenue for goals, a draw could send them both home early.

115. Namibia

The group's dark horses will have a big red circle around their date with their neighbours. Regardless of what happens against Tunisia and Mali, a magic win against South Africa could be enough for third-placed progression.

Peter Shalulile and Deon Hotto will be their primary threats and their teammates will understand the calibre of each of their South African counterparts.

Shalulile and Hotto are arguably the standout players for their clubs, and a disciplined team that rallies around two match-winners is a dangerous beast.

Family feuds often end with the previously bullied getting a little revenge. Namibia's coach, Collin Benjamin has told his group foes to be prepared, as quoted by KickOff:

"My team are fit, aggressive and set out in every match to make things as difficult as possible for opponents."

Although unlikely, Namibia will celebrate a draw against Tunisia like a win but it will be a training game for the South Africa fixture. Win that and it doesn't really matter what happens against Mali.

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AFCON Group C Preview

Sports Brief recently compiled a list of what to expect from AFCON Group C.

Sadio Mane's Senegal and Andre Onana's Cameroon will be favourites to win the group.

Guniea and The Gambia will be the two teams hoping to progress as the third-best team.

Jarryd Westerdale photo
Jarryd Westerdale
Jarryd Westerdale (based in Johannesburg) joined Sports Brief after four years in the community journalism sphere. He is a two-time Alet Roux Award winner and was a finalist in multiple categories at the Forum of Community Journalism Excellence Awards.