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A History of Records and Landmarks at the Africa Cup of Nations

By Samuel Egyir-Hagan

The AFCON is well and truly underway, with three days of captivating football, underdog statements, and routine wins. For the next month, Africa’s top nations will fight for the right to rule the continent, and engrave their name into the record books and eternal national folklore.

First-time winners? Top goal scorer? It is all to be played for. Records celebrate the past heroes, preserves the current crop of players, and gives the future stars a reason to give their all on the pitch.

Few records have been tied and surmounted, such as André Ayew joining the list of players to have played 8 AFCON tournaments. There is still a lot to play for, so let’s take a look at records that can be matched and/or broken at the AFCON2023 in the teams/regional, individual (player/coach) and national categories.

A Look at the AFCON by Region

Champions

Egypt hold the record for most Africa Cup of Nations titles with seven trophies

The UNAF region (North Africa) has the highest number of titles with eleven AFCON trophies: Egypt (7), Algeria (2), Morocco (1) and Tunisia (1).

The WAFU region (West Africa) follows closely with 10 triumphs: Ghana (4), Nigeria (3), Ivory Coast (2) and Senegal (1). With 11 out of 24 participating teams representing the WAFU region (Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Mali, Guinea, Ghana, Mauritania and Gambia), there is a high possibility to equal the North African nations.

Finals Appearances by Country

Egypt holds this record with the Pharaohs playing in ten finals, winning seven and losing three. Following closely is Ghana, with nine finals where the Black Stars have a record of four wins and five defeats. A final appearance for Ghana will equal Egypt’s record and a trophy would end a forty-year drought for the country famously known as “The Brazil of Africa”.

Individual Records

Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan (L) and Rigobert Song of Cameroon were both known for their longevity, representing their countries in eight AFCON tournaments

Most AFCON Tournaments Played

Cameroonian and Egyptian legends Rigobert Song and Ahmed Hassan were present at eight editions (both 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010). They were matched by Ghanaian captain André Ayew (2008, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, 2023) when he came off the bench in Ghana’s 2-1 defeat to Cape Verde as well as Tunisian forward Youssef Msakni (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021, 2023) who was in the eleven for the Eagles of Carthage in their Group E opener against Namibia.

With appearances in the opening matches for their countries at the 2023 AFCON, André Ayew (L) of Ghana and Tunisia’s Youssef Msakni (R) moved level with Rigobert Song and Ahmed Hassan by participating in eight AFCON’s

AFCON Appearances

Current Cameroon head coach, Rigobert Song played 36 games for the Indomitable Lions over eight AFCON tournaments. Ghanaian captain, André Ayew has 35 AFCON caps, and looks set to surpass Song’s record if he appears in Ghana’s remaining Group B matches.

Most Goals

Cameroon striker and current Cameroonian Football Federation president Samuel Eto’o is the all-time leader for goals scored at the Africa Cup of Nations with eighteen goals total in 29 matches played over six AFCON tournaments.

Ivory Coast’s Laurent Pokou is second with an impressive record of over a goal per match, scoring fourteen goals in twelve matches at four editions of the AFCON (1968, 1970, 1974 and 1980). Nigerian striker Rashidi Yekini completes the top-3 with thirteen goals scored in twenty appearances at the 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1994 editions.

Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o is the Africa Cup of Nations all-time leading scorer

Most Tournaments with a Goal

Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon), André Ayew (Ghana) and Zambian legend Kalusha Bwalya are all tied having scored in six editions of the AFCON each. Ayew is in contention to snatch the record for himself if the Ghana captain can find the net in the ongoing edition in Ivory Coast.

Legendary Zambian striker Kalusha Bwalya scored in six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments, leaving the Chipolopolo marksman tied at the top with Samuel Eto’o and André Ayew

Most Goals in a Single AFCON

Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) striker Ndaye Mulamba continues to hold the record for most goals in a single edition of the AFCON with nine goals in six matches at the 1974 edition.

Laurent Pokou (Ivory Coast) and Vincent Aboubakar (Cameroon) have come the closest to matching Mulamba’s longstanding record with Pokou tallying eight goals in five games in 1970 and Aboubakar finding the net eight times in seven matches at the 2021 edition hosted by Cameroon.

Ndaye Mulamba was unstoppable at the 1974 Africa Cup of Nations as he led Zaire (now DR Congo) to the title with a tournament record nine goals in only six matches

Coaches

Most Titles Won as Player and Coach

Egypt’s Mahmoud El-Gohary won the 1959 AFCON as a player and conquered the AFCON once again as a coach, managing the Pharaohs to the title in 1994. Stephen Keshi equaled El-Gohary’s accomplishment, winning the competition in 1994 before leading the Super Eagles to victory as coach in 2013.

Current Cameroon head coach Rigobert Song is the only person at the ongoing AFCON who could surpass El-Gohary and Keshi if he is able to lead the Indomitable Lions to glory in Ivory Coast having won the title as a player in 2000 and 2002.

Nigeria’s Stephen Keshi is one of two players to win the AFCON as a player and coach along with Mahmoud El-Gohary of Egypt

Most AFCON’s Won by a Foreign Coach

Frenchman Hervé Renard masterminded Zambia’s miracle AFCON triumph in 2012 before doing it again with Ivory Coast in 2015, making him the only foreign coach to win multiple AFCON’s

French coach Hervé Renard won the 2012 edition of the AFCON following Zambia’s incredible run to the trophy and then three years later captured the title again by leading Les Éléphants of Ivory Coast to the summit in 2015.

South Africa coach Hugo Broos could possibly move level with Renard if the Belgian is able to lead Bafana Bafana to the title in Ivory Coast this time around.

National Team Records

All-Time Leading Scorers

Cape Verde forward Ryan Mendes and Tanzania striker Mbwana Samatta could become the all-time leading scorers for their countries at the 2023 AFCON

Cape Verde captain Ryan Mendes is currently on fifteen goals scored for the Blue Sharks and could surpass record holder Héldon Ramos “Nhuck” if he scores one goal at the 2023 AFCON. Tanzanian striker Mbwana Samatta has a bit more work to do, needing three goals to move level with Taifa Stars legend Mrisho Ngassa with 2023 AFCON teammate Simon Msuva one behind Samatta.

All-Time Appearance Leaders

Algeria’s all-time leading scorer Islam Slimani reached a century of appearances for his nation following a substitute appearance in the opening match for Les Verts against Angola this week

35-year-old Algeria striker Islam Slimani is on the verge of being not only the all-time leading scorer for Les Fennecs but also the player with the highest number of appearances for the North African nation. Slimani equaled the record of 100 caps previously held by playmaker Lakhdar Belloumi after coming on as a substitute against Angola on Monday in Algeria’s Group D opener against Angola. Current teammates Riyad Mahrez and Aïssa Mandi are close behind with 91 and 90 appearances respectively.

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