AFCON 2023 Group F winners prediction: Morocco to end 47-year duck?

We have made an AFCON 2023 Group F winners prediction ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) starting in January 2024 in the Ivory Coast. Group F features 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, 2015 AFCON semi-finalists DR Congo, 2012 winners Zambia and future 2027 co-hosts Tanzania.

Let's wrap this group stage preview in style!

Morocco the likeliest candidate in our AFCON 2023 Group F winners prediction
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AFCON 2023 Group F winners prediction & group forecast

Group Winners – Morocco

Morocco put African football back on the world map last year, after becoming the first African team to reach a World Cup semi-final in Qatar. They beat European heavyweights Belgium, Spain and Portugal along the way, and will be aiming to replicate their success on the world stage in AFCON.

They won three of their four games in qualifying, meaning that they will play in their fourth successive AFCON finals. However, Morocco have only won the competition once, way back in 1976, and will be desperate to end their long streak without the trophy.

They boast a host of stars playing at top clubs in Europe, including Achraf Hakimi at PSG and Sofyan Amrabat at Manchester United, and are the highest-ranked nation in the tournament, placing 13th in the FIFA world rankings.

Thus, we expect Morocco to cruise through the group stages, and potentially go on to win the whole competition.

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Runners up – DR Congo

Ranking 64th in the world, DR Congo are expected to be Morocco's toughest challengers. They have won AFCON twice, but playing first as Congo-Kinshasa in 1968, and Zaire in 1974. Since DR Congo formed in the late 90s, their highest AFCON finish has been third place in 1998 and 2015.

They overcame a tight qualifying group that included Mauritania, Gabon and Sudan, with only six points separating all four teams, a relief after not qualifying in 2021.

DR Congo have many recognisable players in European football, notably captain Chancel Mbemba at Marseille, who has earned the second-most caps in their history with 73, while Yoane Wissa has formed formidable strike partnerships with Cameroon's Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney at Brentford.

We expect them to qualify from the group, but topping Morocco may be too much of a stretch.

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Third Place – Zambia

Zambia produced one of the greatest shocks in modern AFCON history by winning the competition in 2012. They overcame an Ivory Coast team in the final that included world stars Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba among others, and also beat traditional powerhouses Senegal and Ghana along the way.

That is their only AFCON win, while they have been runners up in 1974 and 1994. They are ranked 82nd in the world, and impressively came top of their qualifying group ahead of 2023 hosts Ivory Coast.

Zambia's biggest threat will come from their forward line, where Leicester City's Patson Daka netted five times in qualifying, and has 12 goals for his country. Fashion Sakala plays in the Saudi Pro League among some of the best players in world football, and he boasts seven goals in 24 caps for Zambia.

Although we think they will finish outside of the top two, Zambia will be among the strongest third-placed teams, and so will likely advance to the knockouts.

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Eliminated – Tanzania

Tanzania are the lowest-ranked team at AFCON, and sit 122nd in the world rankings. However, they still managed to qualify for only their second-ever AFCON, with their first coming in 2019.

They will also automatically qualify for the 2027 tournament as co-hosts, alongside Kenya and Uganda, the latter of whom they fended off in their 2023 qualifying group. So if nothing else, this is a free hit to start a three-year path to a brighter future.

Tanzania's biggest threat is likely to come from captain Ally Samatta, who is his country's second-highest scorer of all time with 22 goals, and plays his club football for PAOK, who sit fourth in the Greek top flight and top of their UEFA Europa Conference League group.

We think Tanzania will go out at the group stages, but a lot of their hope does rest on Samatta's shoulders.

What the bookmakers say

It’s another straight flush between our views and those of the bookmakers. While Tanzania’s chances of winning the group – or merely avoiding elimination – aren’t as remote as the likes of Mozambique and Namibia, they know that sneaking in through the third-place backdoor is the best they can realistically hope for. Yet, even a mere draw against Morocco (currently 17/4 with most bookmakers) will send the odds shifting in their favour.

Group F winner odds

Group F Winners – Potential Round of 16 opponents

The winners of Group F will face the runner-up from any of the remaining other groups in the Round of 16. Based on a combination of our predictions and the AFCON draw seedings, we think Morocco will play either hosts Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Burkina Faso or Mali.

None represent a particularly easy passage further through the knockouts, but with fond memories of Qatar 2022 still relatively fresh in the mind, Morocco undoubtedly have enough to go all the way.

See also: Who will negotiate the “Group of Death”?

Adam is a lead writer on Football Whispers. He is a big Arsenal fan, and also follows his local club Wealdstone, made famous by The Wealdstone Raider, of whom he has interviewed. Adam also follows darts, boxing, cricket and tennis, among many other sports.