AFCON 2023 team of the tournament betting: Our projected XI

The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) is just around the corner as players head to hosts Ivory Coast in January to participate in the tournament. As such, we have projected the potential AFCON 2023 team of the tournament, based on a number of factors including club form and previous AFCON performances:

AFCON 2023 team of the tournament – Our projected XI (4-3-3)

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Goalkeeper – Yassine Bounou (Morocco)

Bounou has a good chance of being the goalkeeper of the tournament, especially if Morocco go far. The 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists are currently second-favourites to win their first AFCON since 1976, behind reigning champions Senegal.

Bounou was exceptional in Qatar, making two saves in Morocco's round of 16 penalty shoot-out victory against Spain, and kept four clean sheets in total, the most of any goalkeeper. He plays for Saudi Pro League side Al-Hilal at club level, and has helped them reach the top of the table, conceding just nine goals in 19 games, by far the fewest in the division.

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Defenders – Achraf Hakimi (Morocco), Ousmane Diomande (Ivory Coast), Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal), Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso)

We have cheated a little in the respect of not naming a natural left-back among our four defender picks, but some modern-day managers do like to start three natural centre-backs for possession build-up, with one full-back inverting into midfield. It would not be a surprise to see right-back Hakimi make the team, as he did in 2021. The PSG man loves to bomb forward, and will be a big attacking threat for Morocco.

Alongside him, we could see a nice blend of youth and experience. Hosts Ivory Coast could give a world platform to talented 20-year-old Diomande, who plays his club football at Sporting CP, and has been courted by some top clubs. Bounou's club team-mate Koulibaly has the experience needed to drag Senegal to consecutive AFCON wins, while like Hakimi, Tapsoba made the 2021 team of the tournament, and represents dark horses Burkina Faso. He plays his club football for Bayer Leverkusen, who are still unbeaten this season and flying at the top of the Bundesliga.

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Midfielders – Yves Bissouma (Mali), Simon Adingra (Ivory Coast), Mohammed Kudus (Ghana)

Anchoring the midfield could be Mali's Bissouma, who is enjoying a new lease of life at Tottenham Hotspur under Ange Postecoglou. Mali have avoided the bigger and more-fancied nations in their group, with Tunisia the highest-ranked but not fancied among the tournament favourites, so they could go far in the tournament.

Alongside Bissouma could be two fellow Premier League stars in Adingra and Kudus. Playing for Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham United respectively, they have excelled both in the league and in Europe, with Kudus especially adapting well to his new team after joining from Ajax this summer. Ghana are not among the favourites for the tournament, but Ivory Coast will fancy themselves on their own turf, and Adingra could be one of their key players.

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Attackers – Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Victor Osimhen (Nigeria), Sadio Mane (Senegal)

Salah is enjoying a brilliant season with Liverpool, having scored 12 goals and made seven assists in his opening 19 Premier League matches, putting the Reds on top of the table. He is world-class, and will cause nightmares to every defender he is up against in the tournament, as he did in 2021, where he was named in the team of the tournament after helping Egypt to the final.

Osimhen will cause a similar feeling, as his frightening pace and finishing ability could see him spearhead Nigeria to the trophy, similar to what he did with Napoli and the Serie A title last season. Salah's ex-Liverpool team-mate Mane could complete the front three, as he is still an important player for tournament favourites Senegal, and scored the winning penalty in 2021 to also be named in the team of the tournament.

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Adam Clancy

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.