Former Senegal and Liverpool striker El Hadj Diouf has overlooked Nigeria as a contender for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations trophy while tipping the Teranga Lions as the favourites to lift the title in January, PUNCH Sports Extra reports.
Senegal led by Sadio Mane won the AFCON championships for the first time after 17 attempts in Yaoundé in last year after defeating Egypt in the final.
Nigeria, a three-time AFCON winner, will strive to clinch the title once again, having previously triumphed in 1980, 1994, and 2013.
Nigeria Eagles won the 1980 edition of the AFCON on home soil, before going on to win the 1994 and 2013 editions in Tunisia and South Africa respectively.
While they avoided a confrontation against one of the North Africans, Jose Peseiro’s men were, however, handed a tricky start to their campaign with a game against the hosts, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea in Group A.
The Eagles will begin their quest for their fourth title against Equatorial Guinea January 14 before facing the Elephants at the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan in one the most highly anticipated games of the tournament’s group stage fixtures.
Ten years after their last triumph at the AFCON in South Africa, the Eagles said they were prepared to win the AFCON title again in Ivory Coast adopting the catch-phrase ‘Let’s Do It Again’ as their battlecry towards winning a fourth Africa Cup of Nations title in early next year.
Meanwhile, Diouf, who had 43 caps playing for Senegal, did not see Nigeria as one of the favourites to lift the trophy despite their extra motivation.
“Senegal are the favourites, but there are outsiders like Morocco and Ivory Coast, and there are teams that will emerge from the pack as the competition continues,” Diouf said in an interview with Senegalese media outlet Record as per Sport News Africa.
“Now, the African Cup we won in Cameroon was the responsibility of the management, who pulled out all the stops, but the next AFCON will be the responsibility of the players. And it’s up to them to show that they’re not finished yet.”
Next year’s edition of the AFCON will take place from January 13 to February 11, 2024.
The host cities are Abidjan, Bouaké, Korhogo, San Pédro and Yamoussoukro.