Five things we learned from the Africa Cup of Nations

Five things we learned from the Africa Cup of Nations

Ivory Coast brought the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations to a dramatic end on Sunday beating Nigeria 2-1 in the final to become champions for the third time.

The Elephants were the story of the competition as they sacked manager Jean-Louis Gasset after a poor group-stage performance and still went on to lift the trophy.

We take a look at five highlights from the latest edition of Africa's premier international football competition.

Comeback kings Ivory Coast rise from the dead

After a shock 4-0 defeat to Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast looked certain for an early exit. The Ivorian Football Federation sacked French manager Gasset afterwards and brought in former player Emerse Fae. Having scraped through to the knockout rounds, they edged past big favourites and defending champions Senegal on penalties in the round of 16 in Fae's first game in charge, then beat Mali in extra-time in the quarter-finals and secured a 1-0 victory over DR Congo in the last four. Given the nickname 'Zombies', they came back from the dead once again to beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final after going behind, proving you should never write off the Ivory Coast.

Bafana Bafana defy the odds

Not many would have predicted South Africa would reach the semi-finals of the tournament and Bafana Bafana certainly produced their most impressive AFCON performance in many a year. After a disappointing opening loss against Mali, Hugo Broos' men responded superbly against Namibia and Tunisia to qualify for the Round of 16, where goals from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena sealed a famous 2-0 victory over 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco after PSG star Achraf Hakimi missed a penalty late on.

A gutsy win on penalties followed against Cape Verde in the quarter-finals to set up a blockbuster semi-final clash against Nigeria, and while the penalty shootout did not go their way on that occasion, Bafana Bafana picked themselves up and signed off in style against the Democratic Republic of Congo to secure the bronze medal, their best finish at the Africa Cup of Nations in over two decades.

Much change needed for the Black Stars

It was a tournament to forget for Ghana as they failed to make it out of the group stages with just two draws and a defeat. A team that included West Ham star Mohammed Kudus, Crystal Palace veteran Jordan Ayew and Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams struggled to help Ghana make any progress in the competition. Former Brighton manager Chris Hughton was sacked after less than 12 months in charge and the Black Stars have started their search for a new coach before the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in June.

New heights for Mauritania

Mauritania qualified for AFCON for the first time in their history in 2018 and heading into this year's competition they had new hopes of improving on their last performance. The Lions of Chinguetti were still searching for their first win heading into the last group game against Algeria and they pulled it off with a shock 1-0 victory to also send them to their first knockout match against Cape Verde. Mauritania could not pull off another upset against Cape Verde but they sealed their place in AFCON history with an impressive performance.

Rise in viewing figures continues

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) confirmed more than two billion people worldwide watched the tournament live on TV. Deals with many broadcasters all over the world have helped boost figures for the competition and CAF president Patrice Motsepe predicts the next tournament's viewing figures will be even better.

READ MORE: Hugo Broos commits to Bafana Bafana as interest from Algeria and Tunisia emerges