Continental heavyweights crash out of AFCON in major upsets
- Major upset as Morocco, Africa's top-ranked team, and 2022 World Cup semi-finalists, are eliminated by South Africa.
- Egypt, Cameroon, and Ghana, the most successful teams in AFCON history, with a total of 16 titles, have all been eliminated in the Round of 16.
- All five of Africa's representatives from the 2022 World Cup have also been eliminated from the tournament. The trend of reigning champions struggling in knockout ties continues.
The Round of 16 in the ongoing 2023 AFCON concluded on Tuesday with a major upset as Morocco, the continent's top-ranked team and 2022 World Cup semi-finalists, were eliminated by South Africa.
Notably, the three most successful teams in the history of the competition—Egypt, Cameroon, and Ghana—have all been eliminated. These teams, with a combined total of 16 titles, were unable to progress beyond the Round of 16. Additionally, all five of Africa's representatives from the 2022 World Cup have exited.
The trend of reigning champions struggling in knockout ties at the tournament—starting in 2010—continued, with Senegal's exit on penalties at the hands of Ivory Coast. The last three AFCON champions, including Algeria, have all been eliminated, with Algeria exiting in the group stage for the second consecutive tournament after their triumph in 2019.
The ongoing Africa Cup of Nations has been characterized by Ivory Coast's remarkable resurgence, surprising eliminations of football heavyweights, and unexpected success stories, making it one of the most unpredictable major international football tournaments. Notably, none of the quarter-finalists from the last edition held two years ago in Cameroon, have advanced to the last eight in the current tournament. This pattern might be attributed to the decision to expand the competition to 24 teams, a change implemented in the 2019 edition in Egypt. The expansion appears to have played a role in fostering increased competitiveness among smaller nations and creating greater depth across African football. The outcome has been a tournament marked by unexpected outcomes and a more inclusive representation of nations, highlighting the evolving landscape of football on the continent.