Golden Boot award winner Emilio Nsue
* Wins the Côte d’Ivoire 2023 Golden Boot award with 5 goals despite team bowing out in Round of 16
* Team stunned eventual champions Côte d’Ivoire with a huge 4-0 victory and drew 1-1 with finalists Nigeria in group stages
By Duncan Mlanjira
The curtain has fallen for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 — won by hosts Côte d’Ivoire last night after beating three-times champions, Nigeria.
The teams have packed up their bags and left for their respective country’s ready for their next assignments — one being the FIFA World Cup 2026 African qualifiers in which Malawi Flames have been pitted alongside Equatorial Guinea, Tunisia, Namibia, Liberia and São Tomé e Principe.
What will be intriguing in the qualifying group is any encounter against Equatorial Guinea, who impressed at the AFCON 2023 edition by stunning the eventual champions, Côte d’Ivoire with a huge 4-0 victory and drew 1-1 with finalists Nigeria in group stages on their way to the Round of 16.
Though their lost against neighbours Guinea in the Round of 16 — when Mohamed Bayo broke their hearts with just seconds left on the clock to snatch a late 1-0 — reports indicated that Equatorial Guinea played out impressively.
They finished top of their tough Group A consisting of the hosts Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Guinea Bissau and they went back home with heads high while captain Emilio Nsue emerged as the top scorer to walk away with the Golden Boot award with five goals — one ahead of Angola’s Jacinto Dala (4).
CAFonline reports that Nsue started the campaign on a bright note with the Nzalang Nacional after scoring the tournament’s first and only hat-trick against Guinea Bissau and a brace against Cotê d’Ivoire in the 4-0 victory in the last round of group games.
Emilio Nsue joins a list of elite goal scorers in the history of the AFCON, including Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), Didier Drogba (Côte d’Ivoire), Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon) and Nigerian Odion Ighalo in winning the Golden Boot.
It was unimaginable that Equatorial Guinea would rout hosts Côte d’Ivoire with such a huge 4-0 victory but they did and the opponents’ results at the AFCON 2023 edition should send shivers to the Flames’ coach, Patrick Mabedi ahead of the the FIFA World Cup 2026 African qualifiers in June.
Equatorial Guinea and Tunisia tie on six points after registering two wins in Match Day 1 & 2 in November but Tunisia are at the top having a goal difference of 5 against Equatorial Guinea’s two.
The Flames, who beat Liberia 1-0 away in Monrovia before losing 0-1 at home against Tunisia a few days later, tie on 3 points with Namibia but Namibia are on 2nd position on goal difference.
Equatorial Guinea first overcame Namibia 1-0 and Liberia also 1-0 while Tunisia first beat São Tomé e Principe 4-0 before beating the Flames — with Namibia seeing off Sao Tome e Principe 2-0.
Alongside Equatorial Guinea at the AFCON Côte d’Ivoire 2023 were Tunisia and Namibia and they too need to be treaded carefully as they also most definitely have come out of it with guns blazing.
After June, the next qualifying matches for Flames’ Group H will be in 2025 (March, September, October and November).
The 23rd edition of the FIFA World Cup tournament is through a complex qualification as the final — to be hosted jointly by the United States of America, Mexico and Canada — will have 48 participating countries instead of the conventional 32 giving an advantage for Africa to field more teams.
The top team from each group after Match Day 10 shall earn an automatic qualification for the 2026 World Cup finals and additionally, the four best second-placed teams from all nine groups will engage in a continental playoff, determining a single victor who will then proceed to a second and final playoff.
This final stage will comprise six teams from various confederations, with the top two emerging as qualified participants, ultimately making up the 48 competing teams.
The African qualifiers have Egypt, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Djibouti (Group A); Senegal, Congo DR, Mauritania, Togo, Sudan, South Sudan (Group B); Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Lesotho (Group C).
Group D has Cameroon, Cape Verde, Angola, Libya, Swaziland, Mauritius; Group E (Morocco, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Niger, Eritrea; Group F (Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, The Gambia, Burundi, Seychelles; Group G (Algeria, Guinea, Uganda, Mozambique, Botswana, Somalia).