Ranked 121st in FIFA’s world rankings coming into the tournament, Tanzania go into the Africa Cup of Nations this January as huge outsiders.
This is just Tanzania’s third appearance at AFCON, and they will be hoping to build on their 2019 performance, which saw them finish winless.
How did Tanzania qualify for AFCON?
Tanzania edged out their northern rivals Uganda, qualifying from Group F by a single point. Despite being uninspired in attack, Tanzania were resolute at the back, only conceding four goals in six games.
Most importantly, Tanzania earned a very impressive draw away from AFCON ever-presents and two-time winners Algeria to secure qualification with that valuable point. Ironically, Tanzania’s shutout was masterminded by Adel Amrouche, their Algerian head coach.
Tanzania AFCON 2023 Preview
Who will Tanzania play at AFCON?
Having been drawn in Group F again, Tanzania's three opponents in Cameroon will be DR Congo, Morocco and Zambia.
North African heavyweights Morocco come into the tournament as one of the favourites, and are blessed with quality all over. Despite being near ever-present at AFCON, the Atlas Lions have only one win, which came all the way back in 1976.
They will be keen to build upon their momentum after a fourth-placed finish at the 2022 World Cup.
In goal, Yassine Bounou was a hero in Qatar, and came second in FIFA’s The Best Goalkeeper award. In defence, Achraf Hakimi is a bona-fide world world-class right-back, and West Ham’s intelligent centre-back Nayef Aguerd is their anchor in the middle.
Into midfield, despite a rough start to life at Manchester United, Sofyan Amrabat is still performing for Morocco. Ahead of him Hakim Ziyech is the creative hub of the side. The line is led by Youssef El-Arabi, a Europa League winner with Sevilla.
Les Leopards may not have the same current quality as the Morocco side above, but they have twice as much experience when it comes to winning the AFCON, as DR Congo won the tournament in 2009 and 2016.
They are skippered by Marseille centre-back Chancel Mbemba and former Chelsea wonderkid Gael Kakuta provides quality in midfield. Congo’s greatest strength is their front line though.
Striker Cedric Bakambu is chasing down national legend Dieumerci Mbokani’s record goalscoring crown, and Brentford’s Yoane Wissa has proven himself a quality attacker this season.
Zambia (whose nickname ‘Chipolopolo’ translates as ‘the copper bullets’), are managed by a familiar Premier League face in Avram Grant. The former Chelsea boss has shown his pedigree too, with a remarkable 3-0 win over titans Ivory Coast in qualification for this tournament.
Chipolopo’s second goal was scored by their best player and talisman, Leicester’s Patson Daka, who, after an injury-disrupted start to the season, scored and assisted on his return to the Leicester XI recently.
To escape the group, Tanzania will need to beat Zambia, but it will be no mean feat.
How far will Tanzania go?
The East African nation have not been given an easy ride with their group. Morocco are favourites along with Senegal to win the tournament, and have already shown they know how to break down their stingy defence.
Tanzania could conceivably get a draw against DR Congo if Les Leopards are not firing on all cylinders. Zambia is a must-win fixture for qualification, but with a top manager and the brilliance of Daka, it will be not be easy.
Their draw with 2019 champions Algeria showed that Tanzania can pull a result out of the hat. To qualify, they will need to produce three of those.
Tanzania – Predicted AFCON 2023 XI
Amrouche normally sets his men up in a compact 4-3-3 system.
Amrouche has chopped and changed his goalkeepers. Aisha Manula and Kwesi Pira Kawawa have both played in recent games, but Beno Kakolanya will likely wear the gloves as he was part of the heroic side that earned a point in Algeria.
At right-back, Job Dickson has been a mainstay throughout qualification. The centre-back partnership will likely be Ibrahim Hamad and Bakari Nondo, who retain the chemistry they have with club side Young Africans. At left-back, Shakhtar Donetsk youngster Novatus Miroshi will provide overlapping quality.
Tanzania’s deepest midfielder will likely be one of their elder statesmen, Himid Mao Mkami. The 31-year-old has 61 caps for his country. Ahead of him, Mudathiri Yahya and Mzamiru Yassini will aim to provide tireless energy in defence and creativity in attack.
Leading the line will be Panathinaikos striker Mbwanna Samatta. The 30-year-old has the most goals of any active Tanzanian player with 22 since his 2011 debut.
Providing width will be Simon Msuva, who has netted 17 in 40 appearances, and Charles M'Mombwa, who scored a crucial winner in the 1-0 victory over Niger in qualification, and currently plies his trade in Australia.