Finally, the Africa Cup of Nations is here. After a tumultuous two-year period that saw the first African nation make the World Cup semifinals, multiple scandals inside CAF, an African “Super League,” and over $118 million allocated to improving soccer infrastructure in Africa, the 34th AFCON has arrived. Read on to find out the best Africa Cup of Nations games to watch.

There are a lot of stories, players, and matchups to be excited about in the group stage, making it must-watch television.

All of the games from the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations are available to watch on beIN Sports USA. Streaming services including Fanatiz, Fubo, and Sling TV feature all of the beIN SPORTS channels.

The competition begins on Saturday, January 13 (see full schedule).

Africa Cup of Nations games to watch

Here are four of the best Africa Cup of Nations matches to watch in the group stage:

Mali vs South Africa

This matchup pits two top teams in Africa in their AFCON opener. Mali, ranked eighth in Africa, is rebounding from a round of exit in last year’s tournament. South Africa hasn’t qualified for AFCON since 2019, when they reached the quarter-finals.

Mali’s star players play in their midfield. Yves Bissouma (Spurs), Mohamed Camara (Monaco), and Amadou Haidara (Salzburg) form a potent midfield trio. The rest of Mali’s squad looks less impressive on paper. They’ve had to rely on role players playing in Europe and the Middle East, while also pulling players from inside Africa. It’s worked pretty well though; Les Aigles haven’t lost since March.

Despite South Africa’s talent abroad, head coach Hugo Broos elected to call up the majority of his players from inside South Africa. Lyle Foster (Burnley), Lebo Mothiba (Strasbourg), and Bongokuhle Hlongwane (Minnesota United) are all missing from the squad. The squad looks promising. Percy Tau (Al Ahly), Teboho Mokoena (Sundowns), and Ronwen Williams (Sundowns) are all arguably the best players in Africa at their respective positions.

Mali plays South Africa for the fifth time ever on Tuesday, January 16, 3:00 PM EST.

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Ivory Coast vs Nigeria

Ivory Coast vs Nigeria is arguably the most exciting match in the group stage. It pits the hosts of the tournament and two-time AFCON winners against three-time AFCON winners Nigeria. Both teams are loaded with talent and are among the favorites to take home another trophy, but have underperformed in recent years. This match will also have one of the highest attendance in the tournament thanks to the high stakes and presence of a home team.

The Ivory Coast boasts some of Africa’s best talents. Several up-and-coming players like Ousmane Diomandé (Sporting), Odilon Kossonou (Leverkusen), and Simon Adingra (Brighton) will join the squad, while tenured players like Seko Fofana (Al-Nassr), Franck Kessie (Al Ahli), and Ibrahim Sangaré (Forest) will also play for Les Elephants.

Nigeria is best known for its abundance of attacking talent. Victor Osimhen (Napoli), Victor Boniface (Leverkusen), Ademola Lookman (Atalanta), and Alex Iwobi (Fulham) will all likely start for the Super Eagles come January 17. However, the team suffers from a lack of depth on defense and in the goalkeeping position. Young players like Raphael Onyedika (Club Brugge) and Alhassan Yusuf (Antwerp) are players to watch, even though they likely won’t play much.

The Ivory Coast plays Nigeria for the 27th time ever on Wednesday, January 17, at 12:00 PM EST.

Egypt vs Ghana

Egypt is historically Africa’s best national team, although they’ve fallen off in terms of success recently. They’ve won five AFCONs, three of which came in a legendary three-peat in 2006-10. The Mohamed Salah-led squad has finished as runner-ups twice in the last three AFCONs. Omar Marmoush (Frankfurt) and Trezeguet (Trabzonspor) will also support Salah in the Ivory Coast.

This Ghana squad is best known for its up-and-down 2022 World Cup. They lost to Portugal and Uruguay and beat South Korea all in close fashion. However, this team has improved a lot. Although star player Thomas Partey is out for the rest of the 2023/24 season, Mohamed Kudus (West Ham), Ernest Nuamah (Lyon), Salis Abdul Samed (Lens), and Iñaki Williams (Athletic Club) are all worth monitoring.

Egypt plays Ghana for the ninth time ever on Thursday, January 18, 3:00 PM EST.

Senegal vs. Cameroon

Senegal is the reigning African champions, having claimed the title over Egypt in a thrilling penalty shootout over Egypt. They return reloaded. Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly (Al Hilal), and Ismaila Sarr (Marseille) all return, but new, explosive faces like Pape Sarr (Spurs), Nicolas Jackson (Chelsea), and Iliman Ndiaye (Marseille) can take this team from a mere contender to an overwhelming favorite.

Cameroon also forged a deep run in the 2021 AFCON, finishing in third place thanks to dominant performances from Golden Boot winner Vincent Aboubakar. Aboubakar (Besiktas) returns this tournament looking to retain his major role from the tournament before, while André Onana, Frank Anguissa (Napoli), and Karl Toko Ekambi (Abhi Club) return.

Senegal faces Cameroon for the 16th time ever on Friday, January 19, 12:00 PM EST.

Photos: Imago.