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Africa Cup of Nations predictions: Morocco can end long wait
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Joe Casey
Experienced defender Romain Saiss should prove a key man for Morocco
Experienced defender Romain Saiss should prove a key man for Morocco

- Senegal are the defending Africa Cup of Nations champions
- The tournament starts on Saturday, with the final on February 11
- Recommended bet: Morocco to win outright 

The Africa Cup of Nations begins on Saturday as hosts Ivory Coast take on Guinea-Bissau. 

Defending champions Senegal get their campaign under way against Gambia on Monday and will be hoping to join a select group of teams that have won back-to-back titles.

There are plenty of other contenders in what looks set to be an ultra-competitive edition of the tournament, which concludes in Abidjan on February 11.

Outright Predictions

There are plenty of teams with viable chances in this year’s event but favourites Morocco look the likeliest winners.

The Atlas Lions reached the semi-final of the World Cup just over 12 months ago and that is the outstanding piece of form in this field.

They topped a group containing Belgium and Morocco before seeing off Spain and Portugal in the knockout stages, losing 2-0 to France in the last four.

Defence was crucial to their efforts in that tournament, seeing them record clean sheets in knockout victories over both Spain and Portugal. 

A back five of Yassine Bounou, Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss and Noussair Mazraoui is the standout at the tournament and could be crucial in what tends to be a low-scoring event, there were just 100 goals in 52 games in the last edition.

It is not just at the back where Morocco have a talented squad, with Youssef En-Nesyri a top level striker and Sofyan Amrabat and Marseille pair Azzedine Ounahi and Amine Harit a rock-solid midfield.

This team beat Brazil at the start of 2023 and have added some exciting youngsters to what was an already impressive squad.

Hakim Ziyech’s move from Chelsea to Galatasaray has seen the winger benefit from increased game time and overall the Atlas Lions’ squad looks the deepest and most balanced.

It is possible to pick holes in the chances of some of the other contenders, Senegal’s talisman Sadio Mane is not the player he was while Algeria will be without Said Benrahma after a dispute with his manager.

Hosts Ivory Coast are also near the head of the betting but host nations have a poor record in this tournament, failing to win any of the last eight editions.

Morocco should be able to win this title for the first time since 1976.

Victor Osimhen of Napoli is part of a strong Nigerial squad
Victor Osimhen of Napoli is part of a strong Nigerial squad

Group Winner Predictions 

Group A immediately catches the eye at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations, with West African heavyweights Ivory Coast and Nigeria at the head of the market to top the section.

The host nation are favourites but Nigeria could be a spot of value. The hosts finished runners-up in their qualifying group and cannot match the attacking quality of the Super Eagles, who can count Victor Osimhen, Kelechi Iheanacho, Samuel Chukwueze, Ahmed Musa and Victor Boniface among their options going forward.

In Group C it’s hard to see Cameroon getting the better of Senegal to top Group C. The Indomitable Lions have been handed an injury blow with Bryan Mbeumo missing out and Senegal got the better of them when the two met in October. 

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Africa Cup of NationsMoroccoNigeriaSenegal
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