10 most successful teams in the African Cup of Nations

John Dennis

Egypt was the first country to win the African Cup of Nations in 1957 in Sudan. From that point forward, 14 different countries have lifted the AFCON title.

At first, countries were not required to participate in the qualification stages. However, once the qualifications began, AFCON became a competitive sport, with all 54 nations competing for only 24 positions in the finals.

Successful teams have emerged in the process, with recently underestimated nations like Zambia and DR Congo becoming champions.

Countries that have lifted the AFCON have qualified for the competition at least twice. Mali has never lifted the AFCON trophy despite reaching the semi-finals six times.

But which are the most successful teams in the African Cup of Nations?

1. Egypt

Egypt national football team line up. They are one of the most successful teams in the African Cup of Nations
  • Winners: 7 (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010).
  • Runners-up: 3 (1962, 2017, 2021).
  • Third Place: 3 (1962, 2017, 2021).
  • Fourth Place: 3 (1976, 1980, 1984).

Egypt is the most successful team at AFCON. Interestingly, it was the first country to win AFCON when it was hosted in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1957. The Pharaohs have qualified for the competition a record 25 times.

Egypt has won the most African Cup of Nations titles. It has seven titles, with two (1986 and 2006) coming as the host country.

Another fun fact is that Egypt is the only African country that has won AFCON thrice in a row (2006, 2008, and 2010).

However, the 2010 win against Ghana in Angola is Egypt’s most famous win because it cemented their legacy as the best team in Africa.

The 2010 title also saw Egypt win other competition prizes. Mohammed Nagy was the top scorer with five goals, Ahmed Hassan was the best player, and Essam El Hadary was the best goalkeeper.

2. Cameroon

Cameroon national football team line up
  • Winners: 5 (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017).
  • Runners-up: 2 (1986, 2008).
  • Third Place: 2 (1972, 2021).
  • Fourth Place: 1 (1992).

Cameroon has always been one of the best African teams, not just based on the players it has produced but also on its success in the AFCON.

After joining the tournament in Sudan for the first time in 1970, Cameroon has amassed a total of five titles.

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Cameroon’s first AFCON win was in 1984 in Ivory Coast. Then, the Indomitable Lions beat Nigeria 3-1 at the Stade Félix Houphouët-Boigny to lift its first-ever African title.

Cameroon is one of three African teams to win the AFCON consecutively twice (2000 and 2002). In 2021, Cameroon finished third despite being the hosts.

With eight goals, Vincent Aboubakar was the tournament’s best player and top scorer.

3. Ghana

Ghana national football team line up
  • Winners: 4 (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982).
  • Runners-up: 5 (1968, 1970, 1992, 2010, 2015).
  • Third Place: 1 (2008).
  • Fourth Place: 4 (1996, 2012, 2013, 2017).

Ghana joined and hosted the 1963 AFCON tournament at the Accra Sports Stadium in Accra. The black stars beat Sudan 3-0 at the tournament to lift the country’s first-ever AFCON title.

Ghana won the second title in 1965, becoming one of only three African countries (Egypt and Cameroon) to win the AFCON two times in a row.

But after the third title in 1982, Ghana has reached the AFCON finals five times (1968, 1970, 1992, 2010, and 2015) without a win.

Ghana’s best players have been Abedi Ayew Pele, Ibrahim Sunday, and Michael Essien.

4. Nigeria

Nigeria national football team line up
  • Winners: 3 (1980, 1994, 2013).
  • Runners-up: 4 (1984, 1988, 1990, 2000).
  • Third Place: 8 (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2019).
  • Fourth Place: Never Finished Fourth.

Nigeria first qualified for AFCON in 1963. Then, in 1980, the country won its first-ever AFCON. The win was significant because Nigeria was the hosting Nation.

In their journey to the title, Nigeria’s Christian Chukwu was the tournament’s best player, while Segun Odegbami and Morocco’s Khaled Labied were the top scorers with three goals each.

After 1980, Nigeria won two more titles in 1994 in Tunisia and in 2013 in South Africa.

But Nigeria has been unlucky at AFCON. The team has finished third in eight AFCON tournaments (1976, 1978, 1992, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, and 2019). It is the only country with eight third-place finishes at AFCON.

5. Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast national football team line up
  • Winners: 3 (1992, 2015, 2024).
  • Runners-up: 2 (2006, 2012).
  • Third Place: 4 (1965, 1968, 1986, 1994).
  • Fourth Place: 2 (1970, 2008).

Ivory Coast first qualified for AFCON in 1961 and hosted the tournament in 1984. However, The Elephants had to wait until 1992 to win their first-ever AFCON title after beating Ghana 11-10 on penalties at the Stade de l’Amitié in Dakar, Senegal.

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During the 2015 AFCON tournament in Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast won the country’s second AFCON title.

The win was dramatic because Ivory Coast beat Ghana for the second time in an AFCON final. Also, the victory was similar to 1992 because Ivory Coat beat Ghana through penalties.

Sylvain Gbohouo was the best goalkeeper at the 2015 tournament. Other players, including Yaya Toure, Wilfred Bony, and Gervinho, made the CAF Team of the Tournament list.

In the 2024 version, Ivory Coast started badly, losing two matches in the group stage. They fired their head coach but still qualified for the last-16 stage as the fourth-best losers.

The rejuvenated team, powered by the home crowd, would later win against Mali and DR Congo on their way to the finals, where they beat Nigeria 2-1.

6. Algeria

Algeria national football team line up
  • Winners: 2 (1990, 2019).
  • Runners-up: 1 (1980).
  • Third Place: 2 (1984, 1988).
  • Fourth Place: 2 (1982, 2010).

Algeria first qualified for the African Cup of Nations in 1968. However, the Fennec Foxes tried five more times to return to AFCON and failed until 1980, when they finished second after a defeat to Nigeria.

In 1990, Algeria had the prestige of hosting AFCON. The Fennec Foxes beat Nigeria 1-0 to lift the country’s first-ever AFCON title.

Algeria lifted its second AFCON title in 2019 in Egypt after defeating Senegal 1-0 in regular time. Ismaël Bennacer was the best player, and Raïs M’Bolhi was the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

7. DR Congo

DR Congo Football Team
  • Winners: 2 (1968, 1974).
  • Runners-up: Never Finished Second.
  • Third Place: 2 (1998, 2015).
  • Fourth Place: 1 (1972).

DR Congo lifted the country’s first-ever AFCON title in 1968 after beating Ghana 1-0 in Ethiopia. They defeated Guinea six years later to win its second title during the 1974 African Cup of Nations in Egypt.

The quarterfinals of the 2015 African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea were DR Congo’s most dramatic win. The team beat their rivals, the Republic of Congo, after coming down two goals to claim a 4-2 victory.

DR Congo finished third at the 2015 AFCON. The team also received the fair play award, and Dieumerci Mbokani was the top scorer, tied with four other African players.

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8. Zambia

Zambia National football team
  • Winners: 1 (2012).
  • Runners-up: 2 (1974, 1994).
  • Third Place: 3 (1982, 1990, 1996).
  • Fourth Place: Never Finished Fourth.

Zambia first qualified for AFCON in 1974 in Egypt. The Chipolopolos finished second in their first attempt after a 2-0 defeat to Zaire (now recognised by FIFA as DR Congo).

Zambia’s most dramatic win at AFCON was in 2012 in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon when it defeated Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties to lift the country’s first-ever AFCON title.

The tournament saw Zambia produce two top scorers (Christopher Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka). Katogo also won the best player.

9. Tunisia

Tunisia national football team line up
  • Winners: 1 (2004).
  • Runners-up: 2 (1965, 1996).
  • Third Place: 1 (1962).
  • Fourth Place: 3 (1978, 2000, 2019).

While Tunisia is a football giant in Africa, the country has always been unlucky at AFCON. Tunisia qualified for AFCON for the first time in 1962, where the country finished third.

In 1965, Tunisia was the AFCON hosting nation. However, the country finished second after a 3-2 defeat to Ghana after extra time.

Tunisia’s first-ever AFCON win came in 2004 was the country was the hosting nation. The Eagles of Carthage defeated Morocco 2-1 to lift the trophy.

Since then, Tunisia has struggled to reach the AFCON quarterfinals. However, the country continually produced top talents, including Wahbi Khazri, Hatem Trabelsi, and Ellyes Joris Skhiri.

10. Senegal

Senegal national football team line up
  • Winners: 1 (2021).
  • Runners-up: 2 (2002, 2019).
  • Third Place: Never Finished Third Place.
  • Fourth Place: 3 (1965, 1990, 2006).

Senegal won the 2021 AFCON title. The current AFCON winners beat Egypt 4-2 on penalties to win the 2021 African Cup of Nations in Cameroon.

Senegal’s 2021 win was significant because it gave the country its first-ever title. In 2019, Senegal finished second after losing 0-1 to Algeria in Egypt.

At the 2021 AFCON, Senegal’s best players were Sadio Mane (best player) and Eduardo Mendy (best goalkeeper). The team also took home the fair play award.

Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, and Nigeria are the most successful teams in the African Cup of Nations.

These four nations have won AFCON three times. In addition, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, and Algeria have won it twice, while Zambia, Tunisia, Sudan, Senegal, Ethiopia, Morocco, and South Africa have won it once.

Have your say

Which country do you think has the potential to beat Egypt’s record in the African Cup of Nations? Let us know in the comments section.

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