AFCON 2023 preliminary round: All you need to know about the six nations qualified for Group Stages

48 nations will participate in the group stage, which kicks off next June.

The Bright Stars of South Sudan celebrate a goal against Djibouti in the first leg of the preliminary stage. ©️ SSFA.

Six countries have secured a right to take part in the  TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Côte d’Ivoire 2023 group stage draws, CAF has confirmed.

This followed a successful completion of the preliminary stage qualifiers in the week ending.


The countries are: Botswana, South Sudan, Lesotho, Eswatini, Sao Tome and Gambia. The six qualified countries therefore join the 42 countries exempted from the preliminaries. 

CAF said that the date and time of the group stage draw would be communicated in due course. 

48 nations will participate in the group stage, which kicks off next June. The teams will be split into 12 groups of four (4) teams, with the top two from each pool qualifying for the final tournament in Côte d’Ivoire. 

What you need to know about the six qualified teams: 


Botswana got a bye and hence automatically qualification after Eritrea withdrew at the last minute.

Having played at the 2012 Gabon/Equatorial Guinea finals, Botswana will be aiming at earning a second appearance in the continent’s highest international football tournament.

Sao Tome 

The Santomeans qualified at the expense of Mauritius with a 4-3 aggregate victory. A 1-0 home win and a 3-3 away draw was enough for Sao Tome. 

Sao Tome aims to participate in the CAN for the first time. The team ranked 50th in Africa hopes to mark its history this time. 

South Sudan 

Ranked 47th in Africa, South Sudan has never qualified for the final phase of the tournament. They hope to be able to play the next CAN. In the preliminary round, the South Sudanese outscored Djibouti 5-2 on aggregate thanks to a 4-2 win away and a 1-0 victory at home. 


Lesotho has never qualified for the AFCON. The country has always been eliminated in the preliminary round and intends to change the situation. Ranked 44th in Africa according to the latest FIFA rankings, Lesotho beat Seychelles 3-1 at home after a goalless draw to go. 


Eswatini are looking for a first AFCON finals appearance. Since 2000, Eswatini have participated in all the preliminary rounds without managing to reach the group stage of the qualifiers. It was therefore a first for the Swazis who beat Somalia 5-1 on aggregate, after 3-0 and 2-1 victories. 


The Gambia played their first AFCON finals this year in Cameroon. On their debuts, the Gambians reached the quarter-finals of the prestigious tournament. They hope their fairy tale will continue with a second appearance in a row. Against Chad, they recorded a 1-0 away win before a 2-2 draw at home.