Two of the outright frontrunners feature prominently in our AFCON 2023 Group A winners prediction. Hosts Ivory Coast will be desperate to make their home advantage count, and three-time AFCON champions Nigeria will also be a key candidate to go far, especially as the side commanding the highest FIFA rank in Group A.
There is a huge gap between those two heavyweights and the less-fancied duo, Guinea-Bissau and Equatorial Guinea. But there is the safety net of third place under the 24-team format, so neither will be getting dispirited in their attempts to record a shock.
Here’s how we see AFCON 2023 Group A panning out…
AFCON 2023 Group A winners prediction & group forecast
Group Winners – Nigeria
The Super Falcons impressed during the AFCON qualifiers with five wins and one defeat. In addition, the three-time continental champions scored the most goals in qualifying (22). Star players were central to Nigeria’s qualification success, and José Peseiro has several stand-out talents at his disposal.
In particular, Victor Osimhen continues to impress on the international stage, and is expected to be a huge influence for the Super Eagles if they reach the 2026 FIFA World Cup.
He was the highest scorer in AFCON qualifiers, with 10 goals and the striker has 20 goals in 28 caps. To support Osimhen, Peseiro has plenty of high-quality options through AC Milan’s Samuel Chukwueze, Bayer Leverkusen’s Victor Boniface and the experienced Alex Iwobi.
Runners Up – Ivory Coast
While their golden generation fronted by Didier Drogba remains a memory of halcyon days, hosts Ivory Coast are expected to seal a second-place spot in Group A. Only two host nations (Tunisia in 1994 and Gabon in 2017) have failed to progress from the group stages across the past 30 years, so it seems like progress in any form is nearly guaranteed for the Ivorians.
The 2015 AFCON winners have plenty of star players in the present era too, with the likes of Sébastien Haller, Evan Ndicka and Simon Adingra plying their trade across in elite European competitions. But the Elephants also have experienced heads to lean upon during the AFCON finals. Recent Serie A and La Liga winner Franck Kessié, midfielder Max Gradel and captain Serge Aurier also add quality and previous tournament experience to the squad.
Yet, Ivory Coast’s recent form is a concern. They have recorded just four wins from their last 11 outings, including losses to Burkina Faso and Zambia, so there is still no room for complacency.
Third Place – Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea enjoyed a successful AFCON qualification campaign with just one defeat across six matches. In addition, the ‘National Thunder’ showed their threat by shockingly beating Tunisia 1-0. The nation also has a strong recent record in the AFCON finals. Despite only reaching the competition on three occasions, Equatorial Guinea has reached the quarter-final stages each time.
However, the nation may not have enough quality to really threaten Group A’s expected top-two. Equatorial Guinea has never beaten either side in previous H2H battles either, leaving them as the likely third-place nation.
Eliminated – Guinea-Bissau
Ranked 110th in the FIFA rankings, the West African nation has never qualified from the group stages at an AFCON finals in three previous attempts. In 2021, Guinea-Bissau were eliminated from the competition with just one point and without scoring a goal.
Group A Winners – Potential Round of 16 opponents
If Nigeria can live up to their expectations as potential Group A winners, their likely opponents in the round of 16 could be any of Guinea, Mauritania or South Africa – the expected third-place finishers in their respective groups if going by current tournament outrights.
From these potential opponents, South Africa could provide the biggest threat, as Bafana Bafana are ranked 64th in the FIFA standings. Then again, a fully fit and in-form Serhou Guirassy – who is the Bundesliga’s second-top scorer behind Harry Kane – would also pose some problems. That leaves a clash with Mauritania as the best projected outcome.
Written by Alex Waite