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Bafana Bafana not among the 10 teams that can win Afcon according to Morocco coach

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Two years ago, Morocco became the first African or Arab country and only the third outside Europe or South America to reach the penultimate stage of the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Mohamed Salah of Egypt in action during the international soccer friendly match between Egypt and Tunisia, in Cairo, Egypt, 12 September 2023. Picture: EPA, KHALED ELFIQI

Walid Regragui, mastermind behind the stunning success of 2022 Fifa World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, says “at least 10 teams can win the Africa Cup of Nations” in the Ivory Coast from January 13.

While his Atlas Lions are obviously among the contenders for the most prized trophy in African football, the 48-year-old former international full-back did not name the others.

Two years ago, Morocco became the first African or Arab country and only the third outside Europe or South America to reach the penultimate stage of the global showpiece.

Since Egypt completed three straight Cup of Nations triumphs in 2010, six editions have produced six different winning nations and the 2024 tournament is arguably the most open ever.

Here, AFP Sport picks 10 contenders who are most likely to lift the trophy after the final in Abidjan on February 11:

Algeria

Impressive champions in 2019 but flops in 2022 when they crashed out after the first round, Riyad Mahrez-inspired Algeria are widely regarded as one of the top five challengers.

Coach Djamel Belmadi has chosen a mix of old and new faces, including 2019 final match-winner Baghdad Bounedjah as the Desert Foxes chase a third title.

Burkina Faso

The Stallions are missing from most lists of favourites, but in their last four appearances from 2013 they can boast of second, third and fourth-place finishes.

They have numerous players in top European leagues, including Manchester City full-back Issa Kabore on loan at Luton Town, but a lack of game time for Bertrand Traore at Aston Villa is a blow.

Cameroon

The form of the Indomitable Lions has been consistently unpredictable since former star Rigobert Song became coach early last year after they finished third as hosts of the last Cup of Nations.

Cameroon defeated record five-time champions Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar, but took only one point from a possible six against minnows Namibia in qualifiers for the Ivory Coast.

Egypt

The form of Liverpool star Mohamed Salah ensures the Pharaohs will be among the favourites as they chase a record-extending eighth title with an experienced squad.

Salah has had to settle for runners-up medals in two of the last three finals and will hope he and fellow regular scorers Omar Marmoush and Mostafa Mohamed can strike gold this time.

Ghana

The Black Stars are always among the favourites, but it is difficult to make a case for the Chris Hughton-coached side becoming champions given poor form in 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

They needed an Inaki Williams goal deep in added time to edge visiting Madagascar, then lost away to brave but limited Comoros, who failed to make it to the 2024 Cup of Nations.

Ivory Coast

With home advantage comes high expectations, and how the Elephants handle the inevitable pressure will be closely watched as the country pursues a third title.

French coach Jean-Louis Gasset has opted to do without former Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha, trusting the likes of Seko Fofana, Sebastien Haller and Ibrahim Sangare to score.

Morocco

After defeating Belgium, then eliminating Spain and Portugal at the World Cup, Morocco are the favourites of many to win a second African title, 48 years after last achieving the feat.

“Everyone wants to beat us after what we achieved in Qatar, but a lot of teams that did not go to the World Cup are favourites I think,” says Regragui.

Nigeria

The Super Eagles boast a list of forwards led by new African Player of the Year Victor Osimhen and Victor Boniface that must be the envy of the 23 other national coaches.

But coach Jose Peseiro has been under constant fire for persisting with goalkeeper Francis Uzoho and called up South Africa-based Stanley Nwabili as a possible alternative.

Senegal

Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye and two-time African Player of the Year Sadio Mane formed the core of the Teranga Lions team that triumphed at the last finals, two years ago.

That quartet was based in Europe, but all bar Gueye have moved to the rich but less competitive Saudi Pro League and coach Aliou Cisse hopes it will not dilute chances of back-to-back titles.

Tunisia

The Carthage Eagles have qualified for a record 16th consecutive Cup of Nations, but the best they have managed since winning as hosts in 2004 was fourth place five years ago.

In a squad including veteran forward Youssef Msakni, they boast plenty of experience and talent and dare not be written off.

AFP

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