AFCON 2023 may have been pushed back to 2024 due to summer weather concerns in the Ivory Coast, but that only delayed the football festival that we have just witnessed.

This was one of the best-staged AFCON tournaments of all time. The football was exciting and skillful, while the host nation threw everything into the event to make it successful both on and off the pitch.

There were shocks from day one, the eventual winners scraped through the group stage by the narrowest of margins, and – from a South African perspective – this was the best the Bafana Bafana have looked at an AFCON tournament since the turn of the century.

Here is a look back at some of the highlights


AFCON is known to be a tournament that throws up wild results. Even so, the 2023 edition was out of control from the first days of group stage play.

Alegria fell at the first hurdle after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Maurutiania in its final group stage game. This was Marutania’s first-ever win in an AFCON match, and they dumped the 2019 winners out despite being 75 places lower in the FIFA rankings.

Algeria were in good company as they were joined on the first plane home by Tunisia and Ghana. Senegal – the only team to win all three group games – fell at the Round of 16 stage, while pools were won by Cappe Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Angola.

Even Namibia made it to the Round of 16 after claiming its first-ever AFCON win over Tunisia in the process.


Eventual winners – and host nation – Ivory Coast did this the hard way. A 2-0 win in the tournament’s opening game seemed to have the hosts cruising into the knockouts, but defeats against Nigeria (1-0) and a stunning 4-0 loss to Equatorial GUinea had Ivory Coast on the brink of elimination.

It went down to the last group match, where a Hakim Ziyech goal gave Morocco a 1-0 win over Zambia to put The Elephants through as the final of the 16 teams to make the Round of 16 stage.

In the knockouts, Ivory Cost came alive. Their win on penalties over Senegal set the tone before they took down Mali and DR Congo en route to a rematch with Nigeria in the final. With momentum well on their side, their 2-1 win, thanks to a late Sebastien Haller goal, seemed almost preordained.

South Africa

The story of the 2023 AFCON is not complete without mentioning South Africa. The Bafana Bafana have been seen in an apathetic light for years in their home country, but this squad lifted football up in the Rainbow Nation.

This was a dogged and determined team that was incredibly hard to break down and score against. Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was twice the hero in penalty shootouts, especially in the quarter-finals when he saved four penalties against Cape Verde.

He could not repeat that in the semi-finals as Nigeria snuck past South Africa on penalties, but he saved two in the third-placed match as South Africa triumphed over DR Congo.

It could have been an even greater tournament for the Bafana Bafana had right back Khuliso Mudau managed to control his body in the dying seconds to steer a rebound into the net with the goal at his mercy. As it was, this squad of almost entirely home-based players overachieved and has set South Africa up nicely for the future.


AFCON 2025 is set for June/July of 2025 in Morocco. This was after Guinea was stripped of hosting rights due to slow preparations. It will be the second to feature 24 teams, with that added number proving to be a stunning hit in the 2023 event, thanks to the shocks the supposed minnows provided.

Looking further ahead, the 2027 event is set to be staged across Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It will be the first edition to be hosted in three countries and the first to be played in East Africa since Ethipophia hosted in 1976.


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