AFCON 2023: A Tournament of Underdogs and Major Upsets in Ivory Coast

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A tournament of underdogs and major upsets in Ivory Coast during the AFCON 2023

Everyone loves an underdog story, and the underdogs in any football tournament make the game interesting. The ongoing African Cup of Nations has been a delight so far, particularly due to the rise of the underdogs. They always win the hearts of neutrals around Africa. Countries such as Namibia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Equatorial Guinea are now the Davids of AFCON and have improved so much that the goliaths in the tournament are finding it difficult to defeat them.

In this article, we highlight beautiful scenes and memorable moments from AFCON 2023, a tournament of underdogs with major upsets in Ivory Coast.

How the underdogs are lighting up AFCON 2023

Five days in the AFCON 2023 group stage matches, and it has been a whirlwind with drama, upsets, and new chapters. Let us take a look at how the underdogs in the tournament are lighting up AFCON 2023 in Ivory Coast.

Equatorial Guinea holds Nigeria 1-1.

In the first matches of the group stage, Ivory Coast started with a victory against Guinea-Bissau. However, Nigeria, ranking 46 places higher than Equatorial Guinea in the FIFA standings, was held to a 1-1 draw after Ivan Salvador gave the underdogs a shock lead. A few minutes later, the African football player of the year and Napoli star player levelled the score with a cross from Ademola Lookman to nod the Puma “Pokou” 2023 Africa Cup of Nations Official Match Ball inside the net of the opposition. It was a disappointing result, and they had to fight it all for a victory against the host country, Ivory Coast.

Mozambique holds Egypt 2–2.

It was the first match of the day in Abidjan, and Egypt was the favorite to top the group. The group played a draw against Mozambique at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium after Mohamed Salah saved his country from an embarrassing defeat in their opening Africa Cup of Nations game on Sunday.  The Liverpool star, who won the African Cup of Nations twice in a row, converted a penalty seven minutes into injury time to snatch a 2-2 draw with Mozambique, who remain winless at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 13 attempts.

Cape Verde stuns Ghana 2-1

Sunday’s sequence of surprise results at the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 continued as we witnessed a surprise victory from the Cape Verde national football team, which has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup but has qualified for four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in 2013, 2015, 2021, and 2023.

Cape Verde beat Ghana, which is 11th in Africa and 60th globally, according to FIFA standings, which was the first upset of the African Cup of Nations 2023. Garry Rodrigues, who plays forward for MKE Ankaragücü, a Turkish sports club located in the city of Ankara, scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Cape Verde, ranked 73rd globally in FIFA standings, beat four-time champion Ghana 2-1 in Group B.

On Thursday, Ghana faces Egypt, while Mozambique meets Cape Verde on Friday, who is at the top of the group B table, both at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium.

10-man Guinea holds Cameroon 1-1

Cameroon, the host of AFCON 2021 and five-time champions, was held to a draw by 10-man Guinea during the first match of Group C at the Africa Cup of Nations. Guinea, ranked 80th in the world, had threatened a real shock when

Mohamed Bayo scored a thrilling goal to give Guinea, ranked 80th in the world, an early lead against the Cameroon side.  At extra time during the first half, Guinea skipper Francois Kamano stamped on Frank Magri’s heel, bringing the total number of players to 10. They had the second half to defend their 1-0 lead against the Indomitable Lions.

The draw means both sides have to win their match if they are to qualify for the knockout stages, with reigning champions Senegal sitting confidently at the top of Group C after a sweatless 3-0 victory over The Gambia earlier on Monday.

Namibia surprises Tunisia 1–0.

A new era of football excellence was unleashed, and the winner of the rising underdogs, Namibia, who played with passion and determination, showed the continent the biggest upset after a win over the Tunisian national team nicknamed the Carthage Eagles.

With six shots on target against the Tunisian side, Deon Kavendji, playing for the Brave Warriors in the 88th minute, ensured that one of those shots gave his country three points to secure a historic first win in their fourth appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations. Namibia’s first AFCON win was born from Bethel Muzeu’s moment of brilliance.

Namibia, who have in their last three AFCON appearances finished last in their group after losing 7 out of their 9 matches, are now second in Group E after Mali beat South Africa 2–0.

Also Read: Young Players to Watch at African Football Cup of Nations 2023

The underdogs have made a statement in the first matches of the group stage that it won’t be a walk in the park for anyone, no matter their FIFA standings. We expect to see more surprises as the second matches in the group stages kick off today at 15:00 WAT as Equatorial Guinea faces Guinea-Bissau and the Super Eagles of Nigeria face the host country, Ivory Coast, at 18:00 WAT at Alassane Ouattara Stadium.

A tournament of underdogs: AFCON is full of surprises, but when was the last time an underdog won AFCON?

When the Gambia arrived in Cameroon for the Africa Cup of Nations, many thought they were just there to make up the numbers and wouldn’t surely get past the group stage. The Scorpions proved everyone wrong and hit the world with a surprising step to enjoy one of the most spectacular debuts in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations, reaching the quarterfinals in their maiden appearance.

Madagascar, in 2019, with a 2-2 draw in the round of 16 against DR Congo, advanced to the quarterfinals on penalties.

The biggest upset in African football history was Zambia’s 2012 AFCON campaign. Zambia was ranked 71st in the world heading into the AFCON, and they were named “underdogs,” so needless to say, they were not considered pre-tournament favorites by any means.

Zambia won the African Cup of Nations in 2019 with players like Emmanuel Mayuka, Kennedy Mweene, Rainford Kalaba, and Christopher Katongo who stood out in those six matches played. And the head coach, Herve Renard, made sure his team played quality football to entertain the continent.

All eyes are on Namibia, the brave warriors, as they face South Africa on Sunday, January 21st, at 21:00 WAT at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium. Will they shock the continent of Africa and record their second-ever win in the African Cup of Nations, or will they go ahead and win AFCON 2023? Time will tell.

AFCON is full of surprises, and many more shocks are still coming as we progress to the next level of the tournament.