Who will be top scorer in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations?Tomorrow is the time for the 34th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (abbreviated AFCON), which will be held in Ivory Coast this time. This edition is officially called the 2023 championship as the tournament was originally supposed to be played the summer of 2023, but it was postponed until now due to the poor summer weather in Ivory Coast. The final will be played in the country's largest city, Abidjan, on February 11.
Of course, championships are always fun, but AFCON is a hassle for football clubs with African stars as they are forced to spare these players for up to a month if their country goes far. This is perhaps most evident for Liverpool, who are in the lead in the Premier League right now but have to manage without their biggest star Mohamed Salah (Egypt). At most Salah can miss four games. It is also difficult times for the leaders in the Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen, who have to manage without their successful signing Victor Boniface (Nigeria). In their case they are kind of rescued by the fact that the Czech star Patrik Schick is back in the team after a long-term injury.
The list of clubs that will miss their players during this championship can be made long, but we will instead focus here on which players are favourites to win the "Golden Boot" title in this championship. The reigning top scorer in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (played in January 2022) is Cameroon's Vincent Aboubakar, and he is also one of the candidates on our list.
Mohamed Salah, EgyptEgypt's Mohamed Salah is the tournament's biggest star and a clear candidate to become top scorer. He is currently joint top scorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and showed fine form when he scored twice on New Year's Day against Newcastle. Salah has scored twice in each of the last three Africa Cup of Nations. No player, in any team with a realistic chance of winning the tournament, is as important as Salah is to Egypt and if he can get the goalscoring going, Egypt can go far.
Victor Osimhen, NigeriaNigerian Victor Osimhen was on fire last season when he won the top scorer title in Serie A but due to injuries and a bit of faltering form for both him and his team Napoli, he has not quite delivered as expected this season. This is Osimhen's first AFCON as he missed the last one due to being sick with Covid-19. Nigeria have a very interesting team offensively, so they are a team that can score a lot of goals.
Sadio Mané, SenegalSadio Mané was an important piece of the puzzle in the Senegal that won AFCON 2021, accounting for three goals, and he also scored three goals in the championship before that. Since Mané left Liverpool, he has not been at all as prominent, first he failed in Bayern Munich and he has not really delivered in his new club Al Nassr (8 goals this season) either. However, in the national team he is the most important player for Senegal. In total, he has scored 40 goals in the national team and more will surely come in this championship.
Vincent Aboubakar, CameroonVincent Aboubakar was brilliant in the last championship and scored 8 goals for his Cameroon, which of course won him the "Golden Boot" title. This season, he has scored 4 league goals for his Besiktas but has been excluded from the first team due to "poor performance" and "incompatibilities within the team", so the question is how the form is for the reigning top scorer winner.
Youssef En-Nesyri, MoroccoMorocco surprised many at the World Cup in Qatar when they managed to go all the way to the semi-finals and Youssef En-Nesyri was the one to get them there with the only goal of the game in the quarter-final against Portugal. En-Nesyri is a reasonably reliable goal scorer in Sevilla but has "only" scored 19 goals in the Moroccan national team. However, he is the team's most important striker and if Morocco succeeds in repeating the success from Qatar, En-Nesyri can certainly account for several goals.
Victor Boniface, NigeriaGerman side Bayer Leverkusen have been brilliant this season and one of the reasons for that is their successful signing of Victor Boniface. In total, he has scored 16 goals in his new club and assisted to 8 this season. Boniface is of course slightly overshadowed by Osimhen in the national team, but it is not at all impossible that Boniface is the one who scores the most goals for Nigeria in this tournament in the end.
Riyad Mahrez, AlgeriaRiyad Mahrez left Manchester City and moved to Saudi Arabia and Al-Ahli Saudi ahead of this season and there he has scored 8 goals so far. Although he is not a pure striker, Mahrez scores many goals for his Algeria, 31 so far for the national team. Mahrez is clearly Algeria's biggest star and that he succeeds is vital for them to be able to go far this time.
Sébastien Haller, Ivory CoastWe finish off with host nation Ivory Coast's biggest attacking name, Sébastien Haller. As many know, he scored goals like crazy in Ajax, was signed by Borussia Dortmund but received a cancer diagnosis that kept him away for a long time. Healthy again and back in the team last season, he was brought in cautiously into the team again but finished the season very good with 5 goals in the final four league games. However, this season has been a major disappointment, and he has not scored a single league goal and has mostly spent time on the bench the last couple of months. The hope for both the Ivory Coast and Haller is that he finds his way back to good form again and takes the team far in the tournament.
SummaryWe have now listed the eight players who have the best chance of becoming the top scorer in the 2023 (2024) Africa Cup of Nations. What makes this tournament so difficult to tip which team will become champions is that there is almost never a clear favourite, and there are up to ten nations that all have a very realistic chance of winning. This means that the top scorer battle is often decided by how far their country can go, and going far in this tournament is very difficult as many teams are next to equally good.
If you look at the betting companies' odds, Morocco are favourites to win, closely followed by Senegal (who are the reigning champions), Ivory Coast and Algeria. "Outsiders" closely behind this quartet we find Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Cameroon and Ghana. Since the favourites Morocco give around 6 times the money, and Ghana, the highest among these teams, gives around 14-15 times the money, it is understandable how hard it is to tip a winner here.
Salah can be seen as the favourite to become the tournament's top scorer, mostly because he is the best player there. But if we dare to make a tip, we will take a chance with Victor Osimhen. He missed the last tournament due to illness and is probably eager to show Africa and the world what a world class striker he is, and if Nigeria get their game right they can score plenty of goals given the fine attacking qualities they have in the team.