When the 2023 AFC Asian Cup kicks off in Qatar, international tournament football takes center stage.
And on January 13, barely 4,000 miles away, hosts Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast begin the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
See also: 2024 AFC Champions League favorites, forecasts, and most intriguing players
With all but three Premier League teams having at least one player represented in the competition, European clubs will be lacking in notable talent given how globalized football has become over the past three decades.
Newcastle, Burnley, and Manchester City are unaffected, but of the others, who will be most negatively impacted in terms of absences?
- Arsenal (Mohamed Elneny)
- Aston Villa (Bertrand Traoré)
- Brighton & Hove Albion (Simon Adingra)
- Chelsea (Nicolas Jackson)
- Crystal Palace (Jordan Ayew)
- Everton (Idrissa Gueye)
- Liverpool (Mohamed Salah)
- Luton (Issa Kabore)
At least seven clubs will have one player missing when the tournament’s group stage starts. Among them is Liverpool, who will be without Mohamed Salah, their top scorer and motivational idol.
Salah is participating in his fourth Africa Cup of Nations competition. With seven titles, Egypt is the most successful team in the history of the competition and will be one of the favorites. They haven’t prevailed, though, since 2010 and have recently lost twice in the finals, in 2017 and 2021. Wataru Endo, a constant in midfield for Liverpool, also loses to the Asian Cup.
Although Mohamed Elneny has played just one minute in the Premier League this season, Arsenal will also be without one player. Takehiro Tomiyasu will play for Japan in the Asian Cup, just like Endo.
Idrissa Gueye, who is joining Chelsea forward Nicolas Jackson in the Senegal squad as they look to win back-to-back titles, will be missed by Everton. Though he hasn’t played much for Unai Emery this season, Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traoré’s temporary exit will not be felt by Aston Villa.
It will be noticeable that Simon Adingra is not playing for Brighton & Hove Albion, as he has been playing well lately. He is a member of a formidable Ivory Coast delegation, and the hosts will feel pressured to emulate the achievements of the Drogba-Toure generation. To Roberto De Zerbi’s surprise, Kaoru Mitoma will leave for Japan’s Asian Cup campaign even though Brighton’s medical staff has determined that he isn’t healthy enough to compete.
Jordan Ayew has been a constant under Roy Hodgson this season, so Crystal Palace will be disappointed by his departure. Issa Kabore, who is representing Burkina Faso, will not be present for Luton.
- Brentford (Frank Onyeka, Yoane Wissa)
- Bournemouth (Antoine Semenyo, Dango Ouattara)
- Man Utd (André Onana, Sofyan Amrabat)
- Sheffield United (Yasser Larouci, Anis Ben Slimane)
- Tottenham (Pape Matar Sarr, Yves Bissouma)
- West Ham (Mohammed Kudus, Nayef Aguerd)
- Wolves (Rayan Aït-Nouri, Boubacar Traore)
Two players who represented successful national teams in the past are scheduled to depart from Manchester United during the summer. For the first time ever, an African team made it to the World Cup semifinals when Morocco advanced late in 2022 thanks in large part to Sofyan Amrabat. Andre Onana, meanwhile, has proven to be a game-winner for Cameroon, who have recently finished third and won titles, despite his struggles at Old Trafford.
Spurs are currently dealing with an injury crisis, and the forthcoming 2023 Afcon won’t help them much—especially with Son Heung-min absent for the Asian Cup. They lose Yves Bissouma, who has grown into a vital member of the team under coach Ange Postecoglou, and Pape Matar Sarr. Mali, Bissouma’s native country, isn’t anticipated to be a strong competitor in the competition, though.
Mohammed Kudus joins Palace’s Ayew in the Ghanaian team. It’s unfortunate for West Ham, who are currently watching Kudus at his peak, and David Moyes will also be bidding adieu to Nayef Aguerd, who plays a regular for the Hammers, for the time being. The fact that Said Benrahma was left off of Algeria’s roster, despite rumors of his departure, was encouraging.
Bournemouth forward Antoine Semenyo is carrying on the Ghanaian tradition; he plays for the Black Stars and will be motivated to help them break their protracted drought as African champions. Burkina Faso’s Dango Outtara is another Cherry competing in the competition.
Considering how much Wolves use Rayan Aït-Nouri, his absence shouldn’t be detrimental either. He has played the entire ninety minutes in three of his fourteen appearances to date, and not too long ago, he was left off of Gary O’Neil’s starting lineup for three games in a row. Boubacar Traore won’t be too much of a loss if he makes Mali’s final squad, having played 382 minutes for Wolves in 12 league games this season.
You really don’t want to be losing two players to international duty when you’re fighting for relegation. However, Sheffield United, who have both played supporting roles this season, should be able to get by without Yasser Larouci and Anis Ben Slimane. Brentford will suffer a greater loss because they won’t have Yoane Wissa and Frank Onyeka to help right the ship. Bryan Mbeumo, the top scorer for the Bees, was expected to travel with Cameroon but was sidelined until February due to injury.
Three is a crowd
Fulham (Calvin Bassey, Alex Iwobi, Fode Ballo-Toure)
Due to Afcon duty, Fulham will be without three players, two of whom will play for Nigeria. Since capturing their third title in 2013, the Super Eagles have attempted to appear dishonest, missing the playoffs twice. Prior to the 2023–2024 season, Calvin Bassey and Alex Iwobi were signed, and both made tentative starts before solidifying their places in Marco Silva’s starting lineup. Fode Ballo-Toure has been called up for Senegal in other situations, but Silva hasn’t been using him this year.
Let’s talk about six baby
Serge Aurier, Willy Boly, Ibrahim Sangaré, Moussa Niakhaté, Cheikhou Kouyaté, and Ola Aina of Nottingham Forest
Nottingham Forest’s Afcon contingent is out of the ordinary in terms of quantity. Six players will bid farewell to Nuno Espírito Santo, the recently appointed manager, before they depart for international play. They are also by no means benchwarmers, as Nigeria’s Ola Aina, Senegal’s Moussa Niakhaté and Cheikhou Kouyaté, and the Ivory Coast’s Serge Aurier, Willy Boly, and Ibrahim Sangaré all regularly appear when available for selection.
When is the Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for 2023?
The 34th Afcon, which has been delayed, begins on January 13 with the defending champions, Senegal, taking on the Ivory Coast, who are hosting for the first time since 1984.
The group stage ends on January 24, 2024, with 24 qualified teams divided into six groups of four.
- Group A: Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau
- Group B: Egypt, Ghana, Cape Verde, Mozambique
- Group C: Senegal, Cameroon, Guinea, The Gambia
- Group D: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Angola
- Group E: Tunisia, Mali, South Africa, Namibia
- Group F: Morocco, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania
Quarterfinals, semifinals, a match for third place, and the final on February 11, 2024, await the top two teams in each group and the four highest ranked third-place teams.