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Neither hosts, Cote d’Ivoire nor champions, Senegal will win AFCON 2023

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BY KUNLE SOLAJA.

With 25 days to the kick-off of the 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, veteran Ivorian football journalist, Mamadou Gaye has predicted that both Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal will not win the competition.

Both countries, hosts and defending champions respectively, are among the giants of African football.

Yet, they have not been impressive in the premier African football championship. Cote d’Ivoire, the hosts, have just two titles in the preceding editions having won in 1992 and 2015.

Senegal which in the recent time have dominated African football as defending champions of the Africa Cup of Nations as well as current holders of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) and both the U-20 and U-17 titles just have one AFCON title to their name.

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According to Gaye, a very familiar face on television across Africa,  Cote d’Ivoire has a coach who does not understand the dynamics of African football.

The coach is 70-year old Jean-Louis Gasset a French former midfielder who was appointed in May 2022. Gaye, himself an Ivorian believes that the employment of the old coach who is having his first experience in Africa, was influenced by a group of players who consequently have great influence on him.

According to Gaye who spoke to Sports Village Square at the Movenpick Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco remarked that the players dictate to the old man, the choice of squad.

“This will backfire at some point. In Africa, you need to have experienced coach who understands the dynamics of the game.”

To Gaye, Cote d’Ivoire may struggle to get to the semi-finals, but he was sure they will not be contesting for the title.

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As for the defending champions, Senegal, Gaye remarked that in spite of the Lions sweeping all titles across the age-graded competions as well as the African Nations Championship which is for players in the domestic leagues, the core team, the Terranga Lions is composed of ageing players.

“But they still believe thay are the best of the bests in the continent. With such attitude, it is a recipe for disaster”, remarked Gaye.

“They are forgetting the surprise factor in a tournament like this.” Gaye said that the surprise element couple with a shade of luck combined to see Senegal lifting the African title for the first time last year in Cameroon.

“The current squad does not have what it takes to retain the title. In Africa, it is not easy to retain the AFCON title.”

In 66 year history of the tournament, only three countries have been able to win back-to-back. They are Ghana in 1965 after winning the previous one in 1963; then Cameroon in 2000 and 2002 and Egypt in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.