The U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 tournament kicks off this weekend, as eight teams across Africa make the trip to Morocco. There's a lot at stake for these teams, as the best three teams will qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. That said, let's have a quick run-through of this competition.
Ready for the U23 AFCON Morocco 2023 🇲🇦💪 pic.twitter.com/y8BbHGIlFB
— 532off (@532off) June 22, 2023
What is the U23 AFCON?
Like the name suggests, players who will feature in this tournament are 23 years old or younger. It may interest you to know that this competition is played once every four years. The maiden tournament started in 2011, which means that this will be the fourth edition of the U23 Africa Cup of Nations. Keeping that in mind, Morocco will host this competition for the second time; they previously hosted the first edition of this tournament in 2011.
U23 AFCON Format
We've previously mentioned that there are eight teams in this tournament, these teams will be split into two groups containing four teams. The four teams in each group will meet each other in a round robin format, and the top two teams at the end of the group stages will advance to the semi-finals. Interestingly, the winners of both semi-finals will automatically secure a place in the Summer Olympics next year, while the losers will meet each other in a third-place match. Whoever wins the third-place match will also qualify for the Olympics.
U23 AFCON – Past Winners
Given that there have been just three previous editions of this competition, only three teams have won this title in the past, and these are Nigeria, Egypt and Gabon. It's fair to note that the Egyptians are the defending champions here, having won this tournament in 2019; they have also been the most successful team at this event, as they also finished third in 2011. On that note, two of three previous champions also made it through to this year's event, with the exception of Nigeria, who crashed out in the last qualifying round.
Which teams will participate in the U23 AFCON 2023?
🇬🇭 Ernest Nuamah has arrived in the Black Meteors camp in Rabat for the U23 AFCON.
The 19-year-old will be in contention to face Congo on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/ZL8cxM4D1w
— Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) June 23, 2023
These are the teams that will feature in this year's event:
This will be Ghana's second appearance at this tournament. They finished second in Group A in 2019, booking a place in the semi-finals. Things didn't turn out too well for the Black Meteors however, as they suffered back-to-back losses in the knockout stage, finishing fourth.
Guinea will play in the U23 AFCON tournament for the first time this week. They defeated Nigeria in the qualifying round across two legs, earning their place in this competition.
Republic of Congo
Much like Guinea, Republic of Congo will also make their first ever appearance at the U23 AFCON event this year.
Being the host team, Morocco didn't have to go through the qualifying rounds. It may interest you to know that this will be Morocco's second outing at this competition, and they qualified on both occasions as the host team. Keeping that in mind, the North African country finished second in 2011.
Egypt have qualified for every edition of this tournament; they've won one title, with a third-placed finish. The Egyptians are on a 12 match unbeaten run ahead of this tournament.
Like the Egyptians, Gabon have won this competition in the past; as they emerged victorious at the maiden tournament in 2011. However, this will be their second appearance at this event.
Mali's last campaign was a disaster, as they lost three of three group games, scoring no goals. The Malians will feature in this tournament for the third time, they've never made it past the group stages.
Niger had to go through South Sudan and Cote D'Ivoire in order to qualify for this competition; they have previously never played at this tournament.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 months ago