Who Has Won the Most AFCON Titles?

South Sudan vs Benin
South Sudan vs Benin (Credit UNMISS / Flickr)

The Africa Cup of Nations, often referred to as AFCON, is sometimes seen as a rather pointless distraction to many English football fans. It is certainly an annoyance and frustration for Premier League managers, albeit one they can hardly claim as a surprise. However, it is worth noting that for players from Africa and indeed many fans around the world, this tournament is a really big deal.

In the simplest terms, AFCON is the African equivalent of the Euros or European Championship. Just like the Euros, or the South American Copa America, it is a major part of the football calendar and, given it was founded back in 1957, it predates the Euros! The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations will actually take place at the start of 2024 and runs from the 13th of January until the final on the 11th of February.

Ivory Coast host the postponed championship and Senegal are the defending champions. But who are the most successful sides in the event’s history? Which nation has won the most AFCON titles?

Egypt are Most Successful Team in AFCON History

Egypt flagWith seven tournament wins to their name, north African nation Egypt are the most successful team in the Africa Cup of Nations. They have also appeared in the final more times than anyone else, losing the decider three times from 10 appearances. We will look at Egypt’s wins more closely but before that, let’s take a look at all the sides to have won this competition since it was first played almost 70 years ago.

Nations That Have Won AFCON

The table below shows all sides to have lifted the trophy since the inaugural tournament back in 1957. This is correct up to and including the success of Senegal in the 2021 edition of the AFCON.

Team Total Wins Years Won Years Lost Final
Egypt 7 1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010 1962, 2017, 2021
Cameroon 5 1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017 1986, 2008
Ghana 4 1963, 1965, 1978, 1982 1968, 1970, 1992, 2010, 2015
Nigeria 3 1980, 1994, 2013 1984, 1988, 1990, 2000
Ivory Coast 2 1992, 2015 2006, 2012
Algeria 2 1990, 2019 1980
DR Congo 2 1968, 1974 N/a
Zambia 1 2012 1974, 1994
Tunisia 1 2004 1965, 1996
Sudan 1 1970 1959, 1963
Senegal 1 2021 2002, 2019
Ethiopia 1 1962 1957
Morocco 1 1976 2004
South Africa 1 1996 1998
Congo 1 1972 N/A

Egypt the Dominant Team of the Last 25 Years

AFCON logoThe Africa Cup of Nations has changed its format and schedule more times than we can detail in this article, meaning that unlike the World Cup or the Euros it has not taken place at quite such regular intervals over the years. However, it has essentially been held every two years and the upcoming tournament will be the 34th edition of AFCON, compared to the 2024 Euros in Germany, which will be just the 17th.

Egypt’s records of 10 finals and seven wins from 33 previous AFCONs is a very healthy strike rate but since the approach of the new millennium, the Pharaohs have been even more impressive. Although they won the first two editions of the tournament (the second, in 1959, as the United Arab Republic – essentially Egypt and Syria combined), they then had a long wait to claim their third title.

That came in 1986 but since then, including the 1998 competition, they have won AFCON four times in the last quarter of a century or so, and made the final a further two times (2017 and 2021). That is impressive stuff and Egypt made history in 2010 when their win in Angola meant they had won three tournaments in a row. No other nation has ever managed that, and Cameroon (2000 and 2002) are the only other side to have defended their title.

The current Egypt side, who head into the 2023 tournament (though held in 2024) as one of the favourites, have a clear superstar in the shape of Liverpool’s Mo Salah. Salah is one of the very best players in the world, though most of the Egypt squad plays domestic football in the land of the birth. For all Salah’s brilliance, he is not yet his country’s leading goalscorer as that honour belongs to Hossam Hassan (68 goals in 176 appearances). Liverpool’s Egyptian King has a little catching up to do too as he is currently on 55 goals, albeit from far fewer games (94).

Cameroon the Best of the Rest

Cameroon flagWhilst Ghana have appeared in more finals than Cameroon, it is the team with the fabulous nickname of the Indomitable Lions that are second to Egypt in terms of AFCON titles. Cameroon have made the final on seven occasions (Ghana have made it there nine times) but they have won five of those.

Cameroon have enjoyed two clear eras of great success, making three consecutive finals in 1984, 1986 and 1988, and winning the first and last of those. More recently the Central/West Africans have won three out of four finals this century, missing out in 2008 but winning back-to-back AFCONs in 2000 and 2002 as mentioned, and also in 2017.

Many English football fans will remember the brilliant Cameroon side from the 1990 World Cup that ran England so close in the quarter finals. That represents their best showing on the global stage, with Roger Milla, their second-highest goalscorer of all time, the star then. The legendary Samuel Eto’o is Cameroon’s top scorer with 56 goals from 118 caps and is arguably their only truly world-class player.

North & West African Sides Flourish

Africa map

For a range of reasons, chiefly cultural, economic and biological, nations from the north and from the west of the continent have tended to have more success at AFCON. That said, if we judge things using the official system of regional federations within Africa, then Central Africa also comes out rather well. That is down to Cameroon, who have won five times as said, although who would be considered to be West African by some.

Even so, based on federations North Africa lead the way, with Egypt’s seven titles added to by two for Algeria and one each for Morocco and Tunisia. Next comes WAFU (West African Football Union) with 10 (four for Ghana, three for Nigeria, two for Ivory Coast and one for Senegal). Central have eight (Cameroon plus two for DR Congo and one for Congo), whilst both the East and Southern African federations/unions have two each.