The CAN 2024 qualifiers are now over! The 24 qualified nations who will travel to Ivory Coast from January 13, 2024 to February 21, 2024 are in the starting blocks for the biggest celebration in African football. Qualified Nations, Dates and Group Draw: we tell you everything!
For once, the transition from sixteen to twenty-four teams leaves almost no room for surprises concerning the continent's flagship selections. Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Mali, Ghana, no one is missing. Only DR Congo and especially Cameroon had to really fight to get their qualification ticket to the great celebration of African football.
Indeed, in a group including Namibia and Burundi, the Indomitable Lions suffered a few scares during the double confrontation against Namibia. With only one point taken in two matches (a draw and a defeat), qualification was therefore decided during this international window, for the reception of Burundi in Garoua. Thanks to a 3-0 victory and goals from Mbeumo, Wooh and CAN 2021 top scorer Vincent Aboubakar, there was relief. An African Cup of Nations organized in Ivory Coast without Cameroon would have been a stain.
The DRC, for its part, was able to reverse the situation after two defeats during the first two days, by stringing together four consecutive victories not without difficulty. The appointment of French coach Sébastien Desabre, very renowned on the continent, brought serenity and a guideline to a selection which is starting to regain confidence, with a team increasingly attractive for dual nationals, and players based on the continent. Like Fiston Mayele, top scorer on the continent last season with Yanga SC.
A trend which has tended to be confirmed for some time, the good performance of the West African selections, which are visibly capitalizing on the transition to 24 nations to leave their mark. Indeed, apart from the usual Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali or Burkina Faso, we also find Gambia, Cape Verde, Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau, which are starting to acquire a certain regularity at this level.
The Gambia in the lead, quarter-finalist of CAN 2021, has confirmed a year 2023 which will go down in the annals of its football. After notably a final of the CAN under twenty, and a place in the round of 16 of the World Cup in the same category, defeating France and Honduras in the first round, the Scorpions managed to win a place in the final moments of the last day against Congo Brazzaville. Trailing 2-0, they managed to snatch a draw in added time. A country in its golden age and which could, over time, climb the ladder to become a key player on the continent.
Great satisfaction, the return of Zambia and South Africa, flagship nations of Southern Africa, both former African champions, who respectively will take part in their first CAN since 2015 and 2019. An anomaly repaired, and that we can credit a great generation whose impetus was given by the Zambian team that won the U20 CAN in 2017 on the one hand, and the impact of Mamelodi Sundowns on the selection of Bafana Bafana the other. Winners respectively of Ivory Coast (3-0) and Morocco (2-1), Zambia and South Africa have both been on an upward trend in recent months.
Finally on the surprise side, the return of the Angolan selection to the African Cup of Nations for the first time in ten years. Far from its flagship period which saw it take part in all the CANs from 2006 to 2013 and the 2006 World Cup, the Palancas Negras have experienced a journey through the desert over the last decade. With a group composed mainly of players from local giants Petro Luanda, Primeiro de Agosoto and binational players, the selection of Pedro Soares Gonçalves was able to gain the upper hand over the Central African Republic to place behind Ghana. A three-way race whose outcome was decided on the last day and the victory of the Black Stars against the RCA, allowing the Portuguese speakers to qualify.
Same story for Mozambique, which will take part in its fifth CAN, but the first since 2010, taking over Benin, who along with Gabon are the two major absentees from this CAN. Tanzania, qualified in 2019 after thirty-nine years of absence, only needed four years to return. In the wake of a championship which is progressing, pulled upwards by the significant resources from which they benefit and the clubs of Yanga SC finalist of the last CAF Cup, Simba SC and Azam FC, the Taifa Stars were able to get ahead of the Uganda and Niger to place themselves behind Algeria. A symbolic qualification demonstrating that it is undoubtedly the most enterprising country in East Africa at the moment, at the expense of Uganda. See you in a month for the draw for a CAN with prestigious casting.