Group A Team Profiles: AFCON 2024

football09 January 2024 10:00| © Reuters
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Profile of Ivory Coast team for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Africa Cup of Nations record:

Previous appearances in finals: (24) 1965, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021

Best performance: Winners 1992, 2015

Drawn in Group A with Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Nigeria.

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Coach: Jean-Louis Gasset

The 70-year-old Frenchman is in his first job as a national team coach, although served as Laurent Blanc’s assistant for two years with the France after the 2010 World Cup. Most of Gasset’s coaching career has been spent in the French league with Montpellier, Saint Etienne and Girondins Bordeaux. He also had two separate spells on the coaching staff at Paris St Germain. Took over as the Ivorian coach in May 2022 and has shaken up the side over the last 18 months.

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Key player: Sebastien Haller. Age: 29. Forward.

A French-born striker who played in France's Under-21 side before switching his international allegiance in 2021 and went to the last Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon. He qualifies because his mother is from the Ivory Coast. Haller was diagnosed with testicular cancer but returned after surgery to score nine goals for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga last season. Began his career at AJ Auxerre before spells at FC Utrecht in the Netherlands, Eintracht Frankfurt and West Ham United.

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FIFA world ranking Dec 2023: 49

How they qualified: Hosts, but also took part in the preliminaries and were second in Group H behind Zambia but ahead of the Comoros Islands and Lesotho.


Goalkeepers: Yahia Fofana (Angers), Charles Folly (ASEC Abidjan), Badra Ali Sangare (Sekhukhune United)

Defenders: Serge Aurier (Nottingham Forest), Willy Boly (Nottingham Forest), Chester Diallo (Hajduk Split), Ousmane Diomande (Sporting Lisbon), Ghislain Konan (Al Feyha), Odilon Kossonou (Bayer Leverkusen), Evan Ndicka (AS Roma), Wilfried Singo (AS Monaco)

Midfielders: Lazare Amani (Union Saint Gilloise), Idrissa Doumbia (Al Ahli), Seko Fofana (Al Nassr), Max-Alain Gradel (Gaziantep), Franck Kessie (Al Ahli), Ibrahim Sangare (Nottingham Forest), Jean Michael Seri (Hull City)

Forwards: Simon Adingra (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jonathan Bamba (Celta Vigo), Jeremie Boga (Nice), Oumar Diakite (Stade Reims), Sebastien Haller (Borussia Dortmund), Karim Konate (Salzburg), Christian Kouame (Fiorentina), Jean-Philippe Krasso (Red Star Belgrade), Nicolas Pepe (Trapzonspor)

Profile of Equatorial Guinea team for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Africa Cup of Nations record:

Previous appearances in finals: (3) 2012, 2015, 2021

Best performance: Semi-finalists 2015

Drawn in Group A with Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

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Coach: Juan Micha

The 48-year-old former international had some coaching experience in Spain at Fuenlabrada before returning home to join the local football federation, coaching first the women’s teams before taking on the under-17 team. He was asked to step in as a caretaker coach in November 2020 in the Cup of Nations qualifiers and after the side won key games, was offered an initial one-year contract. But that was extended after the heroics of the last finals in Cameroon where an upset win over Algeria in the group phase was followed by progress to the last eight for the small central African nation.

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Key player: Saul Coco. Age: 24 Defender

Born in Lanzarote on the Canary Islands with his father from Equatorial Guinea, he is the only player in a squad heavily populated by Spanish-based players who competes regularly in LaLiga, having won promotion last season with Las Palmas. He played a pivotal role last season as his club finished second to win automatic promotion. He was centre-back at the last finals in Cameroon and did not miss a minute for Equatorial Guinea in their giant-killing run to the quarter-finals.

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FIFA world ranking Dec 2023: 88

How they qualified: Second placed team in qualifying Group J, behind Tunisia but ahead of Botswana and Libya.


Goalkeepers: Aitor Embela (CD Soneja), Manuel Sapunga (Polokwane City), Jesus Owono (Deportivo Alaves)

Defenders: Carlos Akapo (San Jose Earthquakes), Marvin Anieboh (CD Illescas), Hugo Buyla (Sampdoria), Saul Coco (Las Palmas), Jose Elo (Merida), Basilio Ndong (Universitatea Craiova), Charles Ondo (Huddersfield Town), Esteban Orozco (Arges), Nestor Senra (Real Aviles Industrial)

Midfielders: Luis Asue (Sporting Braga), Alex Balboa (Huesca), Federico Bikoro (Club Africain), Jannick Buyla (Logrones), Santiago Eneme (MFK Vyskov), Pablo Ganet (Alcoyano), Jose Machin (Monza), Josete Miranda (Niki Volou), Federico Nguema (CSF Balti), Iban Salvador (Miedz Legnica)

Forwards: Noe Ela (Numancia), Jose Nabil (Cano Sport), Emilio Nsue (Inter City), Salomon Obama (Santa Coloma), Oscar Siafa (Alessandria).

Profile of Guinea Bissau team for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Africa Cup of Nations record:

Previous appearances in finals: (3) 2017, 2019, 2021

Best performance: Group phase

Drawn in Group A with Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Nigeria.

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Coach: Baciro Cande

The home-born coach has become a national hero in the former Portuguese colony for engineering four successive qualifications for the Cup of Nations finals after decades of being one of the continent’s whipping boys. The 56-year-old, who played in Portugal’s lower leagues, won nine league titles in the small west African country with Sporting Bissau, five of them in successive years. He also had a previous stint as coach of the national team, taking charge from 2003-2008 aged just 36.

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Key player: Mama Balde. Age: 28. Striker.

Started his career in the academy at Sporting Lisbon but made his top flight debut at Desportivo Alves before moving to France in 2019 with Dijon then Troyes and is now at Olympique Lyonnais. He is on loan from Troyes after their relegation last season with Lyon winning the race to sign him ahead of several other suitors. He made his debut for Guinea Bissau just ahead of the 2019 Cup of Nations finals in Egypt and also played at the last tournament in Cameroon two years ago.

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FIFA world ranking Dec 2023: 103

How they qualified: Second team in Group A behind Nigeria but ahead of Sierra Leone and Sao Tome e Principe.


Goalkeepers: Ouparine Djoco (Royal Francs Borains), Fernando Embadje (Alcanenense), Jonas Mendes (Kalamata)

Defenders: Fali Cande (Metz), Marcelo Djalo (Palencia), Jefferson Encada (Pharco), Edgar Ie (Basaksehir), Houboulang Mendes (Almeria), Nanu (Samsunspor), Nito (Maritimo), Opa Sangante (Dunkerque)

Midfielders: Janio Bikel (Gaziantep), Morreto Cassama (Omonia Nicosia), Dalcio (Apoel Nicosia), Carlos Mane (Kayserispor), Sori Mane (Academico Viseu), Carlos Mendes (Bolton Wanderers), Mauro Rodrigues (Yverdon Sport), Alfa Semedo (Al Tai)

Forwards: Mama Balde (Olympique Lyonnais), Franculino (Midtjylland), Zinho Gano (Zulte Waregem), Famana Quizera (Academico Viseu), Marciano Sanca (Almeria), Ze Turbo (FC Pari Nizhniy Novgorod)

Profile of Nigeria team for 2023 Africa Cup of Nations

Africa Cup of Nations record:

Previous appearances in finals: (19) 1963, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2019, 2021

Best performance: Winners 1980, 1994, 2013

Drawn in Group A with Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Ivory Coast.

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Coach: Jose Peserio

It has not been a happy time for the 63-year-old Portuguese technician since he took over at the helm of the Super Eagles in May 2022, with reports of late payment of his salary and constant criticism from supporters, especially since they lost to Guinea Bissau at home last year and in November drew their opening two 2026 World Cup qualifiers. Peserio has also served as coach of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and at club level been in charge at Porto, Sporting and Braga.

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Key player: Victor Osimhen. Age: 25. Forward.

Voted African Footballer of the Year last month, the striker has been on a fast track since being spotted at the 2015 Under-17 World Cup where VfL Wolfsburg signed him. Moved to Lille with a 12 million euro ($13.14 million) price tag in 2019 where he steadily built his reputation and won a place in the Cup of Nations squad for the tournament in Egypt. A broken cheekbone ruled him out of the last finals but after recovering, and mostly wearing a trademark face mask, it was last season at Napoli that he became a major world star, top scoring in Serie A to help the club win the Scudetto.

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FIFA world ranking Dec 2023: 42

How they qualified: Top team in Group A ahead of Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Sao Tome e Principe.


Goalkeepers: Stanley Nwabili (Chippa United), Olorunleke Ojo (Enyimba), Francis Uzoho (Omonia Nicosia)

Defenders: Ola Aina (Nottingham Forest), Semi Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion), Chidozie Awaziem (Boavista), Calvin Bassey (Fulham), Kenneth Omeruo (Leganes), Bruno Onyemaechi (Boavista), Bright Osayi-Samuel (Fenerbahce), Zaidu Sanusi (FC Porto), William Troost Ekong (PAOK Salonika)

Midfielders: Joe Aribo (Southampton), Alex Iwobi (Fulham), Raphael Onyedika (Club Brugge), Frank Onyeka (Brentford), Alhassan Yusuf (Royal Antwerp)

Forwards: Victor Boniface (Bayer Leverkusen), Samuel Chukwueze (AC Milan), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), Ademola Lookman (Atalanta), Ahmed Musa (Sivasspor), Victor Osimhen (Napoli), Moses Simon (Nantes), Sadiq Umar (Real Sociedad)