Afcon 2023: Opta predict who will win tournament in Ivory Coast

A bold graphic of Ivory Coast lifting the Africa Cup of Nations trophy in 2015 and Algeria captain Riyad Mahrez holding the trophy in 2019

By Gary Mabbutt

Opta data insights editor

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) begins on Saturday with hosts Ivory Coast taking on Guinea-Bissau.

Sadio Mane’s Senegal go into the tournament – branded officially as the 2023 finals even though they are being played in 2024 – as reigning champions. What are their chances of winning it again?

BBC Sport has worked with Opta, external to crunch the numbers and look at who might be crowned champions of Africa.

Holders Senegal, World Cup surprise Morocco or free-scoring Nigeria – who will win?

Using Opta’s artificial intelligence prediction model, holders Senegal have emerged as the narrow favourites to lift the trophy this time around. They would become the fourth team to win consecutive Afcons and the first since Egypt won three in a row between 2006 and 2010. None of the past six defending champions have gone beyond the competition’s last 16.

To achieve a more well-rounded picture of who will win the delayed 2023 Afcon, the prediction model estimates the probability of each match outcome – win, draw or loss – by using betting market odds and Opta’s team rankings.

The odds and rankings are based on historical and recent team performances. The model then considers opponent strength and the difficulty of their path to the final – using match outcome probabilities, the composition of the groups and potential knockout stage match-ups.

Africa Cup of Nations 2023 – tournament predictions by Opta
TeamLast 16Quarter-finalSemi-finalFinalWinners
Ivory Coast84.6%53.4%33.4%19.9%12.1%
Congo DR68.8%33.2%14.7%6.3%2.4%
South Africa66.8%31%13.5%5.5%2.1%
Burkina Faso70.1%30.7%12.2%4.9%1.9%
Cape Verde52.9%20%7.9%2.8%0.9%

Senegal are the most likely winners according to the model, with a 12.8% chance, just ahead of hosts Ivory Coast (12.1%), who are attempting to win the trophy for a third time, after 1992 and 2015. The last host nation to lift the trophy were Egypt in 2006 – with just two-third place finishes (Ghana in 2008 and Cameroon in 2021) the best result among the past nine countries to host or co-host the competition.

Morocco (11.1%) are given the third-best chance of winning by the predictor model. They are seeking their second Afcon title, having won it in 1976, but they have not got past the quarter-finals in their past seven Afcon appearances, since losing the 2004 final 2-1 to Tunisia.

Algeria (9.7%) are the fourth-most likely winners, with Egypt fifth (8.5%). For Algeria, the chances of victory are boosted potentially by an easier group than some of the other top contenders, giving them the highest probability of reaching the last 16 (91.5%).

Can Egypt – the record seven-time Afcon champions – avenge the heartache they suffered in losing the 2021 final to Senegal on penalties? If so, it will be their first title since 2010.

Mohamed Salah was just a teenager back then – having suffered defeat in the final in both 2017, he will be desperate to win his first Africa Cup of Nations. Egypt have a 16% chance of at least reaching another final this year.

Rounding off the top seven teams in Opta’s predictor model are three-time Afcon winners Nigeria (1980, 1994 and 2013) and five-time champions Cameroon (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002 and 2017). Nigeria have an 8.1% chance of lifting the trophy, Cameroon 7.5%.

Both countries are heavyweights of African football, and both have potent goalscorers. Victor Osimhen, the 2023 African Footballer of the Year, scored 10 goals in qualifying for Nigeria, at least five more than any other player. The Super Eagles scored 22 overall – seven more than any other side.

Top goalscorers in 2023 Afcon qualifying: Victor Osimhen (Nigeria) 10, Louis Mafouta (Central African Republic) 5, Youssef Msakni (Tunisia) 5, Patson Daka (Zambia) 5, Sadio Mane (Senegal) 5

Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon’s captain, will aim to repeat his feats at Afcon 2021, when he scored eight goals to win the Golden Boot. Only Zaire’s Ndaye Mulamba, with nine goals in 1974, has ever scored more at a Cup of Nations finals.

Will we have another first-time winner – as Senegal were in 2021? If so, Mali (3.7%) appear to have the best chance. Blessed with 12 players currently playing in Europe’s big five leagues, the Eagles have an 8.7% chance of reaching their second Afcon final, having been runners-up to Congo in 1972.

Alas, with just 5.4% separating the top seven teams’ winning chances, Afcon 2023 is set up to be an open and exciting competition. Let’s hope it provides worthy winners on 11 February.

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