• Among the African greats that have exited the competition include the defending champions Senegal, fourth place finishers in the 2022 Qatar World cup Morocco, four time champions Ghana, the tournament’s most decorated team with seven titles Egypt and 2019 champions Algeria.
• The defending champions Senegal fell at the hands of tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire who beat them on penalties (5-4) after a 1-1 draw in full time and additional time.
The 2023 Afcon has been full of shocking results with Equatorial Guinea's defender Emilio Nsue emerging as the top scorer.
However, it's the dramatic exit of Africa's football pillars that has been the talk of the town in the last 10 days.
While the teams have faced horrendous heartbreaks in the tournament, the coaches, especially those who survived the axe, remain optimistic of rebuilding their brands and bouncing back at the next showpiece in Morocco next year.
Defending champions Senegal, fourth-place finishers in the 2022 Qatar World Cup Morocco, four-time champions Ghana, the tournament’s most decorated team with seven titles Egypt, and 2019 champions Algeria were among the casualties of the prestigious event.
The defending champions Senegal fell at the hands of tournament hosts Cote d’Ivoire who beat them (5-4) on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation and additional time.
Senegal were tipped to reach the finals by many pundits and football spectators alike due to their strong squad led by former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane.
The team had not lost in the tournament until they played Cote d’Ivoire who had the full backing of their home fans.
In a post-match interview, Mane who now plies his trade with Saudi Arabian Pro League side, Al Nassr, reflected on the team’s performance with a mix of feelings and resilience.
“Football is cruel. We gave everything, we did what we had to, and we could have killed the game early but unfortunately, that was not the case. Overall the best team won,” he noted.
On his part, the Lions of Teranga gaffer Aliou Cisse noted that this was a time to rebuild and focus on the next continental showpiece in Morocco.
The 1976 Afcon champions Morocco faced a dramatic exit courtesy of goals from Evidence Makgopa and Teboho Mokoena of South Africa.
The gaffer, Walid Regragui, in a post-match interview, took full responsibility for their defeat while stating that the team would bounce back strongly in the next tournament which will be hosted by the North African nation.
“It’s a great disappointment for our fans who supported us in the tournament and helped us a lot, and today, this failure is mine to bear as a coach. We now focus on the upcoming tournament at home,” the gaffer quipped.
Egypt, who boast of a record seven titles, were knocked out of the tournament by two-time champions DR Congo courtesy of post-match penalties.
They were also the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals without winning a single group-stage match. The Pharaohs were placed in Group 'B' alongside Cape Verde, Ghana and Mozambique.
The manager, Rui Victoria, complimented his players for their good performance while also noting the stiff competition.
“My players were very good, but in football, sometimes you face good and sad times.
"We prepared this team for the Afcon, but sometimes you exert your best effort but the result goes the other way. We should look forward to our next targets,” the Portuguese international said.
Four-time Afcon champions Ghana also failed to pick up a win in the group stage matches forcing an early exit in the competition that enraged their supporters.
A section of the Ghanaian media further blocked the team bus from leaving the stadium demanding the team provide answers for their poor performance.
Their manager Chris Hughton and the entire technical bench were shown the door following the poor results.
Two-time African champions Algeria were also a casualty in the demise of African giants, ending the group stage matches bottom of the table with just two points.
Their coach Djamel Belmadi resigned after his team’s second straight group-stage exit in the continental tournament, making him the sixth coach to face the sack in the ongoing tournament.