The fifth day of the CAN 2024 qualifiers, from June 14 to 20, allowed several teams to qualify for the final phase (January 13 to February 11). The last selections to join Côte d’Ivoire will be known in September.
Nigeria will be there
An African Cup of Nations without Nigeria would not really be a CAN. The Super Eagles, crowned three times (1980, 1994 and 2013) and accustomed to podiums, qualified by beating Sierra Leone (3-2) on neutral ground in Monrovia (Liberia). The English-speaking giant has once again relied on Victor Osimhen, the Naples striker, author of a saving double, whom many European clubs want to recruit.
The decisive goal was scored in added time by Kelechi Ihenacho, who plays club for Leicester. Nigeria will play in Ivory Coast its 20e final phase, strong in attacking potential, notably embodied by the two scorers, but also by Ademola Lookman, Ahmed Musa or Samuel Chikwueze.
Almost a year ago to the day, Egypt suffered an unexpected defeat against Ethiopia (0-2) and complicated the task in group D. But the Pharaohs and Mohamed Salah, finalists in 2022 in Cameroon, reacted perfectly, and the victory against Guinea (2-1) obtained in Marrakech (Morocco) allowed them to qualify for their 25e final phase of the African Cup of Nations, thus establishing a record.
Already seven times continental champion, Egypt, which certainly does not play the most spectacular football in Africa, will once again be among the favourites. Provided that it does not weigh on the shoulders of its captain all the weight of its ambitions, as it has become a little too used to in recent years.
A smile for Guinea
For several months, Guinean football had not really had the opportunity to rejoice. The serious institutional crisis it is going through has forced FIFA to place its federation under supervision and to appoint a standardization committee, whose mission seems far from over. Then Guinea, which was to host the 2025 African Cup of Nations, had its organization withdrawn in September by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), due to the numerous delays noted on the various sites.
But the national team, which can no longer play in Conakry for lack of stadiums approved by the body, qualified for the CAN in Côte d’Ivoire, despite a defeat against Egypt (1-2) on June 14 . She took advantage of the draw between Ethiopia and Malawi, six days later, to validate her presence in the final phase, the fifteenth in her history.
Zambia is back
By largely beating (3-0) Côte d’Ivoire – automatically qualified as the host country but participating in the playoffs – Zambia will replay a CAN final phase. The Chipolopolo, who won the 2012 edition with Frenchman Hervé Renard as coach, made their last appearance in 2015, in Equatorial Guinea.
Their coach, the Israeli Avram Grant, had already qualified Ghana twice, in 2015 and 2017. This victory for Zambia also proved fatal to the Comoros, surprise eighth finalists in their first participation in 2022.
Cape Verde and Equatorial Guinea faithful to the meeting
Their presence in the final phase can no longer be considered a surprise. It has become recurrent for these two selections which were still part, at the end of the 2000s, of the most modest in Africa. Cape Verde qualified brilliantly by beating Burkina Faso in Praia (3-1), certainly already ured of their presence in Côte d’Ivoire.
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Equatorial Guinea did the same by dominating Tunisia in Malabo (1-0), which will accompany it to the land of the Elephants, in January 2024. The Blue Sharks and the Nzalang Nacional, which have the particularity of being trained by local technicians (Pedro Brito and Juan Micha) will play their fourth CAN finals since 2012, a competition in which the Equatorial Guineans reached the quarter-finals twice (2012, 2022) and finished fourth in 2015.