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Why 2023 AFCON winner could come from Group F

Within minutes of the kick-off of Morocco's match against Tanzania on Wednesday evening, it was clear to most spectators who would come out on top.

Why 2023 AFCON winner could come from Group F

The Atlas Lions took control right from the start. Their dominance paid off in the 30th minute when Romain Saiss scored, making it 1-0.

Morocco shifted down a gear in the second half but clearly showed why they are to be taken very seriously as contenders for the AFCON title.

The squad is well-stocked with international stars that harmonise, and if the offense proves its goal-scoring abilities – as it did with the double strike shortly before the end – some opponents may already be trembling. The defense is also extremely strong and kept Tanzania at bay without any major problems.

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In the end, the Taifa Stars had just 0.03 expected goals – while Morocco had 2.53! It should be clear by now that the team from the North African region is considered the hottest contender for the title after the first round of the group stage – as several other favorites have not really put their best foot forward yet, looking at you, Egypt and Nigeria, in particular.

Given these performances, it's not really a hot take that the favorites for the AFCON could come from Group F. However, it is not at all unlikely that a competitor from the same group could make life difficult for the surprise team of the 2022 World Cup: DR Congo.

The team has an extremely strong squad, the 10th best of all teams in terms of market value. Of course, the draw against Zambia in the previous match was not the best start to the tournament.

The reason for this is certainly the lack of chances and individual errors in defense. Nevertheless, the Leopards dominated throughout and reacted quickly to the awkward goal they conceded.

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In offense, however, they have several strong players at their disposal, who are generally established in Europe's top five leagues.

Coach Sébastien Desabre even took the liberty of benching insider tip and whiz kid Meschack Elia, who made Manchester City goalkeeper Emerson look older with a wonderful lob goal in October, at the start. The team is also well-equipped defensively and – apart from a few individual mistakes – put in a stable performance.

It will be interesting to see whether the AFCON winner really will come from Group F in the end.

Of course, it's not guaranteed that these two teams, together with defending champions Senegaal, will really perform throughout the tournament, but nevertheless, the chances are quite good.

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Morocco already showed at the World Cup in Qatar that they are a good tournament team. And the fact that DR Congo can play in the shadow of the great Atlas Lions should definitely help the runners-up in the group.

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