image source: FUFA Communications
We are down to the final day in AFCON Qualifying. 9 teams have joined host Equatorial Guinea in the field of 16. They are:
- South Africa
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde Islands
With 10 teams qualified, only 6 bids remain. They will be handed out on Wednesday, November 19th. We’ll take a look at the groups with things outstanding, and we’ll also have a look at who we project to be the best 3rd place team. The top 3rd place team will also secure a bid to Equatorial Guinea.
South Africa has clinched top spot in Group A and a place in the finals. Conversely, Sudan has clinched last place in Group A. Nigeria and Congo are set to determine the 2nd place finisher, as both sit on 7 points. What may have appeared an innocuous 2nd stoppage time goal in Nigeria’s 2-0 defeat of Congo on Saturday was anything but.
The goal gave Nigeria the head-to-head tiebreak over Congo should they end level on points. Given we have this probability around 35%, this is a massive swing. Nigeria saw their odds of qualifying jump from 41% to 76%. Congo’s odds dropped from 59% to 24% just with that one goal alone. It was absolutely huge. Nigeria needs the same amount of points or greater than Congo to qualify. Congo MUST get more points than Nigeria to get the auto bid. How can Congo qualify?
A Congo win and Nigeria loss or draw will do the trick. We give that about an 18% chance of happening. A Congo draw at Sudan and Nigeria home loss to South Africa will also be good enough. We only have those odds at 6%. That’s it. Any other results will see Nigeria through. But despite this turnaround, Congo simply needs a win to qualify for the finals (38%). A win will ensure they are either 2nd in the group or the best 3rd place team. Guinea and Uganda play each other in Group E, so they cannot both end on 10 points. Can’t ask for much more than to control your own destiny.
We expected Algeria to cruise through the group, and they’ve done just that. They very well may end up with the full 18 points from 6 matches. We had this to say about Algeria in our initial preview: “We project Algeria to top the group with 15.44 points, and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see them run the table”.
After Algeria, much remains unsettled. At the back, Ethiopia needs a couple things to happen. They need to defeat Malawi at home and need Algeria to win at Mali. We actually give that about a 37% chance of happening. Not bad. But they also need to make up 5 goals of differential against Mali. Now that is unlikely. With that additional criteria added, the probability drops to around 5%. As Ethiopia cannot be the best 3rd place team, that is their only way in. But it’s not 0. And to have a chance is all you can ask for.
Mali and Malawi are basically in the same boat. They are level on points and level in tiebreakers. That means that goal differential in the group is going to separate them, should they end level. It’s extremely unlikely that Algeria beats Mali by 6 goals and Malawi only loses by 1. We’re going to call that probability virtually zero. So, we’re back to a Congo-Nigeria situation. Malawi needs more points than Mali to advance. Believe it or not, we give that around a 40% chance of happening, due to the strength of Algeria. When we factor out the 5% chance Ethiopia finishes 2nd, we have Mali with a 55% chance of finishing 2nd, Malawi 40%, and Ethiopia 5%.
Burkina Faso and Gabon have locked up the top two spots in the Group. Likewise, Lesotho is locked into last. This leaves just Angola, hanging on a prayer, to be the best 3rd place team. First thing’s first, Angola must win at Burkina Faso. We only have that probability around 14.4% to begin with. Then they need help. A win would put them on 8 points. Should Congo DR or Egypt win, Angola is out already. We think there’s a 2/3 chance at least one wins. This immediately drops Angola’s odds below 5%.
If Ghana wins and one of Guinea/Uganda wins, Angola is out. If Congo and Nigeria both win, Angola is out. There are a few more scenarios which would eliminate Angola, but factoring all of that in, we think there’s around a 1% chance Angola ends up as the best 3rd place team. Still alive, but barely.
Cameroon has qualified and will top the group. We have them, controversially no doubt, ranked as the top team in Africa right now. Surely Algerian supporters would disagree. But they’re through. And Sierra Leone is out. It’s impossible to play 6 matches on the road against the likes of Cameroon and Ivory Coast and expect to finish top 2.
The remaining auto bid is reserved for one of Ivory Coast and Congo DR. Congo DR owns the tiebreaker over Ivory Coast, so if they end level on points, Congo DR would get in. The only way that can happen is if Congo DR defeats Sierra Leone in Kinshasa and Ivory Coast loses at home to Cameroon. We give that about a 1 in 5 chance of happening. The other 80% chance goes to Ivory Coast.
But all is not lost for Congo DR. It is extremely important to get 3 points, as they still may qualify as the best 3rd place team. They need to avoid both Congo and Nigeria winning (80%). They need to avoid both Mali and Malawi winning (98%). They need to avoid Egypt winning (77%). We think there’s a 60% chance they dodge those events. Couple that with their 58% chance of defeating Sierra Leone, and we give Congo DR about a 42% chance of reaching the finals (18% as 2nd place, 24% as 3rd place). Not too shabby.
We also give Ivory Coast an almost 90% chance of qualifying. The 80% above, plus about another 10% as the best 3rd place team. They should be in.
If you were looking for a group with excitement, you can’t ask for more than Group E. Let’s take a look at what each team needs to qualify:
Ghana needs a solitary point to ensure a Top 2 finish. We think there’s a 90% chance they get something at home against Togo, despite recent struggles. If Ghana loses, they are out. Like Angola, 8 points will probably not be enough for best 3rd place team. A loss would see Togo vault Ghana, and any result from the other match results in Ghana ending 3rd. They must get it done themselves.
Conversely, Togo is in a must win situation. A win will see them through to the finals. Any other result will see them eliminated from the competition barring an absolute miracle. We give them about a 10% chance of ultimately reaching the finals. Not looking good.
Uganda simply needs a draw to advance to the finals, but it will not be easy. A draw ensures that they’ll be ahead of 2 of 3 other teams due to tiebreak procedures, which is enough. We give that about a 39% chance of happening. A loss and a Ghana win over Togo would see Uganda in 3rd place. As is the case with many other teams, 7 points in 3rd place probably will not be enough.
Guinea controls their own destiny. Win and in. Draw and they’re either 3rd or 4th, depending on the Ghana result. Loss and that’s basically it. Can get in with 8 points, but we think there’s only around a 3-4% chance that happens. Overall, we put Guinea’s odds at reaching the finals around 64%. That number would be even higher had they been able to play at home.
This is another group that is all but settled. Cape Verde and Zambia have qualified for the finals while Niger has been eliminated. This leaves Mozambique in 3rd place. They can actually finish last in the group if they lose at Niger. To have any chance of qualifying, they need help.
First, they must win at Niger (34.5%). Egypt and Congo DR both must not win (32.4%). Congo and Nigeria cannot both win (80%). Mali and Malawi cannot both win (98%). And they will need some help from Group E. We give them around a 7% chance of being the best 3rd place team. All of these things must happen plus a little more. Looks highly unlikely.
This group is entirely settled for tournament purposes. Tunisia and Senegal are the top 2 teams, Egypt is 3rd, and Botswana is 4th. The only thing left to determine is if Egypt is the best 3rd place team.
In basically the same boat as Congo DR. They must win at Tunisia (23.4%). Nigeria and Congo cannot both win (80%). They would then need some help from goal differential too. Overall, that gives Egypt around an 18% chance of reaching the finals as the best 3rd place team. They’re certainly up against it.
Best 3rd Place Team
The teams that can potentially end up in 3rd place and have a chance to rank #1 with projected odds of being the best 3rd place team:
- Nigeria (5%)
- Congo (20%)
- Mali (2%)
- Malawi (4%)
- Angola (1%)
- Ivory Coast (11%)
- Congo DR (24%)
- Ghana (3%)
- Uganda (1%)
- Guinea (4%)
- Mozambique (7%)
- Egypt (18%)
We fully expect one of Congo, Congo DR, Ivory Coast or Egypt to be the best 3rd place team. It would be very surprising should the best 3rd place team have fewer than 9 points. We hope you enjoyed this update. Thanks for reading!