The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON 2023) is fast approaching, and millions of fans across the continent will be treated to some mouthwatering clashes.
There are 24 teams in this tournament. The usual suspects like Egypt, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa's Bafana Bafana have consistently performed well in past editions of the AFCON. These sides are amongst the favourites, and are expected to make a play for the title.
But then again, there are other teams that have not particularly fared well in the past. Some of these outfits are generally expected to exit in the early rounds of the tournament. That said, these are our AFCON predictions for teams we feel won't live up to expectations:
Nigeria's Super Eagles
Amongst all the countries in Africa, no team has reached more semi-finals, or won more AFCON medals than Nigeria's national team. The Super Eagles have three gold, four silver and eight bronze medals at the Africa Cup of Nations. That said, it's no surprise that they are one of the pre-tournament favourites.
However, Nigeria's recent run of results doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Jose Peseiro's men managed one win in their last five official matches, and they were the clear favourites to win all five games. Also, the Super Eagles have been plagued by injuries lately, as Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Victor Boniface picked up injuries within two weeks of the AFCON.
There's also the issue of Nigeria's inability to keep the goals out. Peseiro's troops saw their defence breached in 10 of their last 12 matches in all competitions. Furthermore, the Super Eagles conceded first in their last five games. There are a fair few things going on with the team right now; and unless these issues are sorted out, Nigeria might suffer an early exit from the competition.
Like the Super Eagles, the Black Stars of Ghana have had their fair share of struggles lately. They have just one win in their last five matches in all competitions, with a draw and three losses.
The most concerning thing about the Black Stars is their lack of goals. Chris Hughton's troops failed to score in four of their last five matches. They managed one goal in that five-game stretch, conceding seven times.
Ghana have also been one of the most successful teams in the history of the AFCON, with four titles. At some point, they won more titles than every other team in the continent. The Black Stars will have to find ways to score if they intend to go far in this competition.
The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon have been AFCON champions on five occasions, that's more gold medals than the Super Eagles and the Black Stars. It may interest you to know that Cameroon met Namibia twice in the qualifying rounds of this competition, and they didn't win either encounter. They've won just two of their last 10 games, with four draws and four losses.
Unlike the other teams on our list, Senegal have actually enjoyed some fine form in recent months. They lost just once in their last 14 games, with 10 wins and three draws. Interestingly, the Lions of Teranga are the defending champions, as they won their first ever AFCON title two years ago.
However, the last time a team successfully defended an AFCON title was in 2010. In fact, since 2010, no defending champion has reached the semi-final of this competition. Can Senegal put an end to that streak?
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago