Diversity of AFCON squads; French Ligue 1 and Premier League players dominate

* French Ligue 1 dominate with a total of 61 players and Premier League has 31

* Saudi Pro League has 25 including the likes of Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Kalidou Koulibally

* Africa’s domestic leagues has 30 with Mamelodi Sundowns, Al Ahly and Orlando Pirates dominating the list

Maravi Express

As the continent awaits for the kick off of the biggest gathering of African football’s powerhouses, they should expect an array of talent from the total of 628 players who will be representing the 24 qualified countries.


The hosts Côte d’Ivoire are in a West African affair in Group A paired with regional rivals Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau while record winners Egypt, hunting a record-extending eighth continental crown, renew hostilities with Ghana in Group B in a repeat of the 2010 final which the Pharaohs won late. Cape Verde and Mozambique complete the group.

Defending champions, Senegal — who clinched their first ever AFCON title in Cameroon — are drawn in Group C against Cameroon, Guinea and The Gambia.

Defending champions Senegal

Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Angola add further star quality to Group D in another exciting pool while World Cup semi-finalists Morocco should navigate a comfortable Group F containing DR Congo, Zambia and Tanzania.

The tournament attracts players plying their trade across the top leagues in Europe, Africa and Asia with the French Ligue 1 dominating with a total of 61 players — key amongst them include PSG defender, Achraf Hakimi and Ghana captain, Andre Ayew, who plays for Le Havre.

Led by Mohammed Salah, 31 players are joining from the Premier League and could have been more if not for injuries to Thomas Partey and Wilfred Ndidi among others.

Mo Salah

Clubs in the Saudi Pro League have made the list due to the recent exodus of some of the continent’s top talents from Europe to Saudi Arabia. There are 25 including the likes of Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and Kalidou Koulibally.

Spain and Germany are also well represented by 22 players in the  La Liga while the Bundesliga has 17 with the reigning Africa Footballer of the Year, Victor Osimhen leading a tall list of 15 Italian Serie A players to the tournament. 

In Africa’s domestic leagues, the 2023 AFCON has found a treasure trove of talents that has Mamelodi Sundowns, Al Ahly and Orlando Pirates dominating the list having contributed a combined number of 30 players — thanks to the qualification of South Africa and Egypt.

Simba SC, Young Africans, FC  Nouadhibou and Angola’s, Atlético Petróleos de Luanda also have a share of the overall talent representation at the TotalEnergies CAF AFCON.


So the stage is set for Africa’s heavyweights to showcase their star power as Liverpool ace Mohamed Salah heads a cast of household names like Saido Mane, Victor Osimhen, Riyad Mahrez and Mohammed Kudus.

Salah is hungry to finally get his hands on the trophy after twice finishing runner-up with Egypt, but this could be the most open CAF AFCON in years.

The defending champions Senegal boast a wealth of talent like keeper Edouard Mendy and defender Kalidou Koulibaly as they bid to retain their crown. However, coach Aliou Cisse is taking nothing for granted: “I believe this Nations Cup will be the toughest to win.”

Morocco, Africa’s top ranked side after their historic World Cup semi-final run, loom as serious contenders to add to their 1976 title.

The hosts Cote d’Ivoire are chasing a third triumph on home soil led by top stars like Franck Kessie, Simon Adingra and Jeremie Boga while four-time winners Ghana also possess European pedigree in West Ham sensation Mohammed Kudus.


After crashing out prematurely in 2021, Algeria are on a redemption mission under mastermind Djamel Belmadi, boasting Riyad Mahrez and Mohammed Amoura.

With seven different winners in the last seven editions, the tournament is wide open as the continent’s heavyweights vie for supremacy.

“I want to win this competition having come so close twice,” declared Egypt’s Salah, still stung by final defeats with the Pharaohs in 2017 and 2021 as he Liverpool superstar is desperate to lead his nation to a record-extending eighth African crown.

But he faces intense competition from the likes of Senegal’s Mane, Algeria’s Mahrez and hosts Cote d’Ivoire desperate to conquer Africa on home soil. 

This 2023 AFCON boasts an intriguing blend of wily veterans like Andre Ayew of Ghana, Youssef Msakni of Tunisia and emerging talents like Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal primed to shine.  

Whoever prevails by February 11 will etch their name into CAF AFCON folklore by lifting the trophy under the Abidjan night sky.

The opening match between Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau — scheduled to kick off at 20:00GMT at the Alassane Ouattara Olympic Stadium in Ebimpé, will be officiated by Egyptian Amin Mohamed Omar.

The 39-year-old is not at his first international experience — he officiated during the FIFA™ U-17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019 and will be supported by his compatriots Mahmoud Ahmed Kamel and Ahmed Hossam Taha. Mahmoud Elbana has also appointed as the VAR referee of the match.—Info from CAFonline

Amin Mohamed Omar