Former star Salomon Kalou believes hosts Ivory Coast can win the 2023 AFCON

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Salomon Kalou, a former Ivory Coast player, believes his team has a “strong opportunity to win” the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, which will be held in June and July next year in Ivory Coast.

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Salomon Kalou

On Tuesday, Kalou and former South Africa great Lucas Radebe drew the qualifying groups for 2023 at the SuperSport studios in Johannesburg.

Despite being automatic qualifiers as hosts, the Ivory Coast was placed in Group H with Zambia, the Comoros, and Lesotho in the 48-team draw.

Only the highest-placed of the other three teams will join the Ivorians in the finals, as the Ivorians are guaranteed a spot at the next Cup of Nations.

Being grouped alongside Zambia would bring back bitter memories for the Ivorians, who lost a heartbreaking penalty shootout to the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) in the 2012 final in Gabon.

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Ivory Coast has won the main African national team championship twice, in 1992 and 2015, and Kalou believes the ‘Elephants’ can make it three in a row on home soil.

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“Playing at home is always an advantage,” said the 36-year-old, who helped the Ivorians win the 2015 final in Equatorial Guinea on penalties after defeating Ghana.

“When teams play in front of their own people, they gain an advantage.” What we need to do is find the proper mix of youth and experience in the team.

“If we succeed, we have a good chance of keeping the title in the Ivory Coast after the tournament.”

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Following a penalty shootout loss to Egypt in the 2021/2022 Cup of Nations, the Ivory Coast decided not to renew the contract of Patrice Beaumelle, who was born in France.

Senegal, the defending champion, is in Group I with Benin, Mozambique, and Rwanda, having defeated Egypt on penalties in a goalless final two months ago in Yaounde.

Egypt, a seven-time winner but losers of two of the last three finals, was placed in Group D with Guinea, Malawi, and Ethiopia.

Hugo Broos, a Belgian-born South African coach, had hoped for a “easier” group, but was not given one, as his team would face Morocco, Zimbabwe, and Liberia in Group K.

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Salomon Kalou

Nigeria, one of numerous African countries without a coach, will play in Group A against Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Sao Tome and Principe, or Mauritius.

Zimbabwe and Kenya’s participation in Group C is contingent on FIFA lifting its sanctions on the countries due to government influence by mid-May, two weeks before the qualifiers begin.

Draw

Group A: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome e Principe or Mauritius

Group B: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Togo, Eswatini

Group C: Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Burundi

Group D: Egypt, Guinea, Malawi, Ethiopia

Group E: Ghana, Madagascar, Angola, Central African Republic

Group F: Algeria, Uganda, Niger, Tanzania

Group G: Mali, Congo Brazzaville, Gambia, South Sudan

Group H: Ivory Coast (hosts), Zambia, Comoros, Lesotho

Group I: Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Sudan

Group J: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Botswana

Group K: Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Liberia

Group L: Senegal (holders), Benin, Mozambique, Rwanda

Dates

May 30-June 14: Matchdays 1, 2

Sept 19-27: Matchdays 3, 4

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March 20-28, 2023: Matchdays 5, 6

Notes

  • Except for H, the winners and runners-up in each group advance to the 24-team finals in the Ivory Coast in June and July 2023.
  • Ivory Coast, along with the highest-placed of the other three teams, automatically qualify as tournament hosts from Group H.
  • FIFA has barred Kenya and Zimbabwe owing to government influence in the sport’s administration, and they will be permitted to compete only if the bans are overturned by mid-May.
  • The conclusion of a disciplinary hearing will determine whether nation competes in Group A after Mauritius appealed a 4-3 aggregate loss to Sao Tome e Principe in the preliminary round.

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