Biggest surprises of AFCON 2023 and how the odds have shifted

We have picked out the biggest surprises of AFCON 2023 so far based on some shock results in the group stage, and the impact they have had on betting markets for the rest of the tournament.

Algeria and Tunisia are just a number of big-name casualties from the group stages, while the likes of Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde have unexpectedly topped their groups, making for a very interesting set of round of 16 ties.

Biggest surprises of AFCON 2023 – Our picks

Photo by Icon Sport

Equatorial Guinea 4-0 Ivory Coast (22nd January)

The most shocking result so far undoubtedly came in Group A, where Ivory Coast lost 4-0 to Equatorial Guinea, putting the hosts' place in the knockouts on a knife edge. There are 39 places between them in the FIFA world rankings, while Equatorial Guinea have never won an Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title, in contrast to Ivory Coast's two titles – their most recent coming in 2015.

It was not just the scoreline, but the manner of the defeat was shocking from the hosts' point of view. They went from 1-0 to 3-0 down in the space of two second-half minutes, and could not score despite dominating possession and having 22 shots on goal. The 4-0 victory was Equatorial Guinea's joint-best in their entire history, and their first-ever win against Ivory Coast.

The result meant Equatorial Guinea topped the group, and Ivory Coast were sweating on being one of the best third-placed teams, which was not the expected outcome of the group according to betting markets and our own predictions.

Nonetheless, you can now get 31/10 odds with betting markets on Equatorial Guinea beating Guinea in the round of 16 and progressing to the quarter-finals, and 50/1 odds on them going all the way to secure an unlikely maiden AFCON triumph.

Photo by Icon Sport

Tunisia 0-1 Namibia (16th January)

One of the earliest shocks in the group stages saw Tunisia, ranked 28th in the world, lose 1-0 to 115th-ranked Namibia – a gap of 87 places. The Tunisians are regulars at AFCON – even winning it in 2004 – while Namibia are competing in only their fourth tournament, and had never made it past the group stage previously.

The scoreline even flattered Tunisia a little, as Namibia recorded more shots and shots on target than their opponents, but needed an 88th-minute goal to record the victory.

The result helped Namibia qualify for the round of 16 for the first time in their history as one of the best third-placed teams, while Tunisia exited at the group stage for the first time since 2013. Again, based on betting markets and our predictions, this has been a huge upset in Group E.

You can get long odds of 150/1 for Namibia to win their first-ever AFCON, which may be a stretch, but do not discount a surprise winner based on results so far.

Weam Mostafa/Sports Inc – Photo by Icon Sport

Mauritania 1-0 Algeria (23rd January)

Another huge shock saw Mauritania, ranked 105th in the world, beat 30th-ranked Algeria 1-0, condemning the latter to a group stage exit despite their being 75 places between them. The Algerians have won AFCON twice before – most recently in 2019, which was the first-ever AFCON Mauritania even qualified for.

The scoreline was even more shocking considering it was also Mauritania's first-ever win at AFCON, and they even recorded more shots and shots on target than their opponents.

The result also meant Mauritania qualified for the round of 16 for the first time in their history, while Algeria went crashing out at the group stage. Based on betting markets and our predictions, this was not supposed to happen.

Nonetheless, you can now get 15/4 odds on Mauritania beating Cape Verde in the round of 16 and astonishingly advancing to the quarters, while they are massive 250/1 outsiders to win the whole tournament.


Avatar of Adam Clancy
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.