AFCON PREVIEW: Onana Delays Afcon Travel to Play for Man Utd, Boniface Misses Out for Nigeria, Morocco Under Pressure, Gambia Players Skip Training


The Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023 hosted by Ivory Coast from 13th January to 11th February, 2024, is here, and we're super excited. And below are some quick updates and news relating to your favorite teams and players. 

Onana Delays National Team Duty

Cameroon and Manchester United shot-stopper Andre Onana will miss the opening game of AFCON 2023 against Guinea on Monday having chosen to play for Manchester United in their Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur, barely 24 hours before the AFCON tie. 

Image: Reuters 

The delay, more than anything else, paints a vivid picture of how Manchester United and Erik ten Hag see Altau Bayindir, their second choice goalkeeper. Bayindir has seen zero minutes of football this season and it looks he'll only get a chance because Onana will  be away eventually, at some point. The only thing Erik Ten Hag has said about Altay Bayindir since his signing is that he wasn't ready to play in England.

Onana, 27, was retired from international football when he joined Man United from Inter Milan in July, after he walked out on Cameroon following a row with coach Rigobert Song at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar – but returned following reconciliation talks between the pair.

He will skip Cameroon's Group C clash with Guinea, but is expected to travel for the Indomitable Lions' games against Senegal (19 January) and Gambia (23 January).

For that reason Cameroon have been flexible in their approach to the goalkeeper’s arrival and offered him some leeway.

"We’re talking with the Cameroon federation, it was an issue during the talks with Andre when he came in here (in July from Inter Milan)," United manager Erik Ten Hag told reporters last week. "It’s constructive."

Boniface Misses Out Due To Injury

Nigeria and Bayer Leverkusen striker, Victor Boniface will miss this month's Africa Cup of Nations after suffering a groin injury while in training.

"Good luck guys. Wish you guys all the best at afcon @ng_supereagles," Boniface wrote on his Instagram account.

Victor Boniface [Getty Images]

The 23-year-old was sidelined for his country's final warm-up friendly against Guinea on Monday and local media reported that he will be out for up to six weeks. 

Also sidelined are midfielders Wilfred Ndidi, who was injured in Leicester City’s 2-0 win at Cardiff City on December 29 and Ndidi's Leicester teammate Kelechi Iheanacho, who is struggling with injury and the striker was still being assessed with the expectation that he will be fit for the tournament, which starts on Saturday.

Nigeria play their opening game in Group A on Sunday in Abidjan when they take on Equatorial Guinea.

Nigeria called-up Terem Moffi from French club Nice to take the place of the injured  Victor Boniface in Nigeria’s final AFCON squad.

His injury comes on top of the recent withdrawal of Nigeria midfielder Wilfred Ndidi who was injured in Leicester City’s 2-0 win at Cardiff City on 29 December.

Ndidi's Leicester teammate Kelechi Iheanacho is also struggling with injury and the striker was still being assessed at Nigeria's training camp with the expectation that he will be fit for the tournament, which starts on Saturday.

Nigeria open their Cup of Nations campaign with a group A game against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday before meeting hosts Ivory Coast and then Guinea Bissau.

Morocco Under Pressure 

Morocco set new standards for African football just over 12 months ago at the Qatar World Cup but the pressure is now on to improve a dismal record in the Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off on Saturday.

Morocco became the first Arab and African country to reach a World Cup semifinal in their thrilling run that captivated the continent but they are now expected to take that form into the Cup of Nations and probably mount a tournament winning challenge.

They have a long history since of crashing out unexpectedly when having been cast as favourites.

"It’s true the last World Cup finals has given us the experience of the big competitions but for us the reality is that the Cup of Nations is always a complicated tournament," coach Walid Regragui told Reuters in the build-up.

"This is not the first time Morocco will arrive as favourite and a potential winner but, unfortunately, we have not managed to be regularly among the last four. It shows that despite the experience of the competitions, it is not a major factor to assure us of victory."

Gambia Players Skip Training Over Unpaid Bonuses

Elsewhere, Gambia football team on Wednesday took off for the Ivory Coast ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations after boycotting their last training session at home over a qualification bonus dispute.

The team's plane, however, turned around just nine minutes into the flight due to a technical problem and returned to Gambian capital Banjul.

"Upon landing, preliminary investigations indicated that there was loss of cabin pressure and oxygen," the Gambian football federation said in a statement.

"However, the technical team of the operating company of the flight, Air Ivory Coast, is further assessing the situation to establish what caused the lack of oxygen and cabin pressure."

The federation added: "Every member of the delegation is safe and in sound health."

The players had skipped training while demanding a bonus payment for qualifying for the tournament, local media reported, but the decision angered supporters who had come to watch the team in action.

ALSO READ: AFCON 2023 Preview: Teams, Predictions, and Favourites to Win

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