Ex-Liverpool forward El Hadji Diouf has laughed off suggestions the Super Eagles of Nigeria are one of the favourites to win the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Whilst speaking in an interview with Senegalese media outlet Record as per Sport News Africa, Diouf said ‘Senegal are the favourites' for the AFCON title.
The two-time CAF Player of the Year not only backed the Teranga Lions to retain the title, he also mentioned World Cup semi-finalist Morocco and AFCON hosts Ivory Coast as other contenders for the title, completely ignoring the Super Eagles.
Senegal are the defending AFCON champions. They reigned supreme in the grandest football tournament in Africa for the first time after 17 attempts in the 2022 edition in Cameroon, defeating Egypt in the finals.
Diouf tips Senegal
“Senegal are the favourites, but there are outsiders like Morocco and Côte d’Ivoire, and there are teams that will emerge from the pack as the competition continues,” he said.
“Now, the African Cup we won in Cameroon was the responsibility of the management, who pulled out all the stops, but the next AFCON will be the responsibility of the players. And it’s up to them to show that they’re not finished yet.”
What makes Senegal favourites?
With Marseille’s Ismaïla Sarr, Chelsea’s Nicolas Jackson, and Al-Nassr’s Sadio Mané in their ranks, the Lions will be the team to beat in the next edition of the AFCON, said Diouf.
Diouf played for Senegal between 2000 and 2008, and scored 24 goals in 70 appearances for the Teranga Lions.
He retired from professional football after the 2014/15 season when he played for Malaysian side Sabah Football Club.
Nigeria Super Eagles and the AFCON tournament
The Super Eagles will strive to win the AFCON title once again, having previously triumphed in 1980, 1994, and 2013.
Nigeria won the 1980 edition of the AFCON on home soil, before going on to win the 1994 and 2013 editions in Tunisia and South Africa, respectively.
Jose Peseiro’s men were drawn in a tricky Group A, and were paired with hosts Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau and Equatorial Guinea.
The Eagles will kick-start their journey for a fourth AFCON title against Equatorial Guinea on 14 January, before facing the Elephants at the 60,000-capacity Alassane Ouattara Stadium in Abidjan in one of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament’s group stage encounters.
The African giants will then conclude the group stage against Guinean Bissau with qualification supposedly in sight.
And despite the talents that Nigeria parades in attack, which includes Napoli striker Victor Osimhen and Bayer Leverkusen hitman Victor Boniface, Diouf did not mention the Super Eagles amongst the teams to threaten Senegal’s reign.
Next year’s edition of the AFCON will take place from January 13 to February 11, 2024. The host cities are Abidjan, Bouaké, Korhogo, San Pédro and Yamoussoukro.
What's next for the Super Eagles?
Coach Peseiro will be inviting the Eagles to camp ahead of the 2026 CAF FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and Zimbabwe next week.
Nigeria missed out in the 2022 edition of the Word Cup and are eager to make amends this time for a place in the 2026 event.
These games will serve as Nigeria's last competitive fixtures before the AFCON tournament in January.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago