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AFCON 2023: Top 5 Disappointments at Tournament, From Ghana to Victor Osimhen
- The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations was unforgettable
- Ivory Coast completed a great story by winning the title
- Some teams and players did not meet expectations
After a month of entertaining football, the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations is over.
Hosts Ivory Coast came from a goal down to beat favourites, Nigeria, 2-1 in the final on February 11 to lift their third title.
There were some great performances, but some teams and players failed to turn up.
Ivory Coast produced one of the greatest survival stories at the tournament. Thanks to Morocco, the Elephants snuck in after nearly failing to progress from the group stage.
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However, some teams, especially giants in African football, produced forgettable performances. Here are the top 5 disappointments at the tournament.
Listing the top 5 AFCON disappointments
The Atlas Lions were expected to go all the way to the final and win their first title since 1976. Their 2022 World Cup semi-final run catapulted them to the top of the African rankings before the tournament started. They comfortably navigated Group F, beating Tanzania, and drawing against DR Congo before beating Zambia.
In the Round of 16, they faced a dangerous South African side, and their approach was a bit baffling. They were too cautious despite having the best players on the pitch. Achraf Hakimi missed a penalty which would've levelled matters, and then Sofyan Ambrabat saw red for fouling Teboho Mokoena. It was a poor performance from the favourites, but they have a chance to correct it on home soil next year.
The 2021 champions, just like Morocco, were superb in the group stage. They beat The Gambia, Cameroon, and Guinea in Group C, setting up a Round of 16 clash against Ivory Coast. The Lions of Teranga scored in the 4th minute in that match, but could not finish off a limping Ivory Coast, who had just fired their manager.
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They had many golden opportunities to put the game to bed, but failed to convert them. They allowed Ivory Coast to bounce back late in the game before losing on penalties. They had an experienced squad that had played together for years under Aliou Cisse but will see the 2023 edition as a missed opportunity.
3. Victor Osimhen
Many will not agree with the inclusion of Osimhen on this list. He was one of Nigeria's best players, but the reigning African Footballer of the Year was expected to do more than scoring one goal. Although he contributed to most of Nigeria's goals, he was a non-factor in the final. The Napoli man couldn't get into the game, with Ivory Coast dominating the ball.
He had more than 24 shots with just five on target, per Opta Analyst. For a striker of his calibre, that was underwhelming. He now has one goal in eight AFCON matches. However, there's room for him to build chemistry with his side ahead of the 2025 tournament in Morocco.
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The Desert Foxes exited the tournament at the group stage for the second AFCON in a row. Mauritania upset them in their final Group D to send them home. They also failed to get past the group stage in the 2021 edition in Cameroon. Their elimination in Ivory Coast resulted in the firing of manager, Djamel Belmadi, who led them to glory in 2019.
Most of their top players, like Riyad Mahrez and Aissa Mandi, have declined significantly. Belmadi was accused of selecting players based on relationships, not merit.
The Black Stars were the first big team to exit the tournament. It was a forgettable campaign for Ghana, who were seeking to end their 42-year AFCON title drought. It turned out to be a nightmare. They lacked cohesion in all their games despite having an experienced coach in Chris Hughton. The former Brighton boss was fired immediately after their elimination was confirmed.
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All they had to do was beat Mozambique in their Group B game. Things started well, and it seemed they were cruising to victory until a few minutes of madness saw their two-goal lead vanish in the blink of an eye.
They have now exited the tournament at the group stage for the second successive AFCON, per GOAL.
Top 5 AFCON goals
Sports Brief also previously listed the top 5 goals at AFCON 2023 after the conclusion of the tournament, with Lamine Camara and Mabululu also making the cut.
Bebe's long-range free kick for Cape Verde against Mozambique is probably the best goal scored in Ivory Coast, as is Aboubakary Koita's effort for Mauritania.