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Football world set for thrills as AFCON 2023 kicks off today



With few hours left to the kickoff of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON2023), Ivorian Stadiums are set, the participating nations are ready and the entire continent is on its lookout for the kicks, the goals, the misses, the cheers and mixed emotions that come with the tournament.

The 34th edition of the biennial African Association Football Tournament organised by the Confederation of African Football, originally scheduled to be played in June and July last year, but has been shifted to early 2024 to avoid the rainy season in West Africa, will be hosted by Ivory Coast for the second time and the first since 1984.

The 52 matches of the tournament will be played in five major Stadiums in Cote de Voire.

Interestingly, Ivory Coast’s hosting of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will further accelerate the country’s impressive rebound since its civil war ended in 2011, after shelling out more than $1bn on infrastructure and organisation.

According to football writer, Piers Edwards, some $79m, external$84m, external and $113m, external has been spent respectively on building new stadiums in Yamoussoukro, Korhogo and Abidjan, namely the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium, while the refurbishment of Abidjan’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny venue cost another $109m.

In addition, airports, roads, hospitals and hotels have been either constructed or upgraded in the five cities that will stage matches; Abidjan, Bouake, Korhogo, San Pedro and the capital Yamoussoukro.

With key players like Victor Osimhen, Mo Salah, Kelechi Iheanacho, Achraf Hakimi, Jordan Ayew, Nelson Jackson, and Mahrez among others gracing the tournament, it sure will bring not just viewership but excitement to the tournament.

The AFCON 2023 buildup has brought uncertainty to the title’s favourites as few Nations have registered their names in the list after tremendous feats in the qualifiers and other competitions like the Fifa Men’s World Cup.

Morocco are Africa’s top-ranked team at 13th in the world after their historic run to the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup.

Read Also: Sports Minister assures Eagles of ‘undistracted’ support in AFCON race

Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah will be looking to captain Egypt to a record-extending eighth triumph when the AFCON2023 gets underway in Ivory Coast today, after finishing as a runner-up with the Pharaohs twice.

Nigeria are three-time winners yet their hopes appear to rest on the threat of Osimhen, African Footballer of the Year Victor Osimhen, who finished eighth in the 2023 Ballon d’Or after firing Napoli to a first Serie A title in 33 years.

With other key players like Kelechi Iheanacho, Achraf Hakimi, Jordan Ayew, Nelson Jackson, and Mahrez among others gracing the tournament, it sure will bring not just viewership but excitement to the tournament.

The friendlies played in Dubai also showed might and strategic plans as teams like Super Eagles decimated a Dubai local club, Al Gharbia 12-0, while also suffering defeats from Equatorial Guinea 2-0.

Aside from the defeat, Jose Peseiro’s side has also suffered injury setbacks with forward Victor Boniface and influential midfielder Wilfred Ndidi ruled out after being reportedly injured during their pre-tournament friendlies, and the Eagles coach has been criticised by supporters for both selection and recent results.

Luckily, Leicester’s Iheanacho injury has been dismissed after undergoing treatment in England and he is expected to join the rest of the team today.

However, Paul Onuachu has been assigned to replace Sadiq Umar while Terem Moffi will take over from Victor Boniface.

The Opening Ceremony will feature Mama Africa, Yemi Alade entertaining the spectators with host Nation Ivory Coast playing against Guinea-Bissau at the Alassane Ouattara Stadium, in Abidjan.

Nigerians will have the opportunity to watch all matches as the National Television Authority NTA secured rights to air all the matches after Multichoice, the parent company of DSTV and GOTV announced they won’t air the matches.

It sure will be a thrilling couple of weeks ahead.

By Amosun OluwaSeyi

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