Mozambique are set to participate in their fifth AFCON, but have not been in the competition since 2010, so will be looking to make up for lost time, although their FIFA ranking (114th) suggests they would do well to pick up even one positive result in a very tough group.
How did Mozambique qualify for AFCON?
Mozambique took second place in their qualification group by a deceptively comfortable five-point margin above Benin, beating them 3-2 on the final qualification matchday back in September.
Benin even took an early lead in Maputo, before a quickfire fightback and (after a Benin equaliser) an injury-time goal sealed qualification. An inverse result would have seen Benin qualify in Mozambique's stead.
Mozambique AFCON 2023 Preview
Who will Mozambique play at AFCON 2023?
Egypt are the sixth highest-ranked team, according to FIFA, so are certainly fancying their chances to top Group B, and then try to go one step further than last time out, when a nation saw their dreams crushed in a penalty shootout against Senegal.
Ghana have certainly had a slippery few years, but appear to have found a solid foundation under the management of Chris Hughton. Yet, a return of just one win in their last four matches shows there's much more work to do, so qualifying from the group will be far from guaranteed for the Black Stars in the Ivory Coast.
On paper, it looks like Cape Verde and Mozambique will be fighting it out to finish as one of the best 3rd place teams when it comes to reaching the knockout stages via the backdoor. Mozambique will be up against it on the evidence of prior H2Hs though, having beaten Cape Verde just once in their history.
How far will Mozambique go?
Mozambique are yet to progress out of the group stages at any AFCON, and with them having been put into this very difficult group, it's very hard to see them reaching a first-ever knockout round.
Mozambique Predicted AFCON Lineup XI
Mozambique's number one shot-stopper is not up for debate, as Ernan has started four out of his country's last five matches. That said, he has shipped two goals in every one of those matches, suggesting that there won't be much chance of him keeping a clean sheet against the likes of Kudus and Salah.
Bruno Langa is certainly going to be part of Mozambique's back four, given that he is one of the most reliable defenders in the squad. With his versatility, it remains to be seen if he'll line up at left back or centre back, though it will likely be the latter, unless Mozambique suffer badly against Egypt and need an extra attacking outlet in the wide areas in their following two games.
If that proves to be the case, count on a centre-back partnership of Mexer – an international mainstay who has 56 caps under his belt – and Nene. But with the latter still having not kept a clean sheet for his country, fears of a collapse will still be ever-present.
The final right-back spot belongs to Domingos, who's missed just two matches since making his debut back in November 2022.
Mozambique will need as much defensive help to get through this tough group, so going for two defensive midfielders in the form of Shaquille and Amdu would be the smartest choice. The pair have 49 caps between them and will have strict instructions to shield the back four and break up passing lanes.
Mozambique's most exciting player is arguably Clesio Bauque, with six goals for his nation. At 29 he is also in the prime of his career, providing electric pace on the left wing to complement the potential for unpredictability provided by Langa moving to the left.
Now aged 40, Domingues will be the skipper for Mozambique, and despite his age, he is a father figure who keeps his nation together and ticking in the final third. Along with Bauque, Gildo should provide the runs in behind, which would allow Domingues to thread through-ball designed to open up opposing defences.
Stanley Ratifo – who scored and got an assist against Botswana two games ago – is the standout contender to lead the line at AFCON 2023. He plys his trade in the fifth tier of German football, meaning that he could potentially be reduced to an awestruck onlooker in the company of some Premier League regulars.
But with four goals in 18 appearances for Mozambique, he'll still be closely marked by the big boys of Group B.