The power rankings are done in order of anticipated likelihood to win the tournament and qualify for the knockout round, taking into consideration both long-term results and recent form. Here is James Bennett with Sandals For Goalposts’ power rankings after the first round of matches:
1. Algeria (no change)
Despite a shaky start against South Africa, the #AfricanFootballExperts’ favourites responded positively to going behind and eventually saw out a 3-1 victory. Though some of their weaknesses were exposed, they also demonstrated their power and ability, and for that reason they have to remain top of the list.
2. Cameroon (no change)
All the favourites began with a struggle, but at least the Indomitable Lions can say theirs was against a team with a track record of being difficult to beat. They responded well to going behind and avoided a costly defeat. Although questions will remain, this was hardly an embarrassing result
3. Tunisia (up 2)
Much the same as Cameroon. While it wasn’t the most convincing Tunisia performance ever, Cape Verde are known to be a tough team to beat, and by virtue of some of the other teams previously above them in the rankings tripping up, they move up a couple of spots.
4. Senegal (up 4)
Though they were outplayed by Ghana in the first half, Alain Giresse’s Lions made an impressive comeback to snatch a late win against the Black Stars, putting them in a strong position to qualify from a very tough group. This might lead to some re-evaluation of their qualifying campaign, where they were impressive even if they finished behind Tunisia. Remember that Giresse teams are very tough to beat.
5. Gabon (up 4)
In perhaps the most surprising result of the round, Gabon beating Burkina Faso is something we should have seen coming due to their previous record, but at SFG we doubted whether Aubameyang’s men could be quite as effective on the big stage. We were wrong – they can, and if they carry on like this, they could go deep into this tournament.
6. Ghana (down 3)
Oh boy! With malaria claiming Gyan and Boye from action, the Black Stars were weakened heading into a key tie with Senegal, but seemed to be doing fine in the first half, leading and looking good value for it. But then they switched off and the Lions came from behind to win, leaving one of the favourites already staring at an early exit. Avram needs to change things fast.
7. Ivory Coast (down 1)
Although they avoided defeat, Les Elephants have started sluggishly in scraping a draw against Guinea, one of the least fancied teams in the tournament. Added to this, they also lost Gervinho to a red card which will keep him out of the next game against Mali, a vital clash which is now likely to determine whether or not they progress – and it’s amazing we’re talking about the mighty Ivorians potentially not progressing.
8. Cape Verde (up 2)
Possibly a better overall team than the two sides above them, nonetheless Cape Verde lack one or two exceptional players in a tournament that is quickly being defined by individual feats. While it is hard to criticise getting a point against one of the favourites, they perhaps lacked the cutting edge that would make them contenders for the overall crown at this point.
9. Burkina Faso (down 5)
A very disappointing performance from the Burkinabe, who struggled to create chances against Gabon and looked vulnerable defensively for the first time at a major tournament in some time. There were flashes of the old Burkina Faso, but it’s going to be hard to see them going quite as far now knowing that they are probably going to finish 2nd in their group at best.
10. Mali (up 2)
Coming up against one of the form teams in Africa, Mali weren’t expected to get a result in their first game, but not only did they get a draw, they were unfortunate to hold on to a win. Though this is not the Giresse team of old, and Seydou Keita may not be as sprightly as he once was, they remain formidable opponents on the big stage, and they now have an opportunity to put Ivory Coast on the ropes.
11. South Africa (down 4)
It was all going so well – 1-0 up against the favourites and then a penalty. Tokelo Rantie’s miss, coupled with the referee’s leniency with Aissa Mandi, turned the game on its head, allowing Algeria back into the game, after which they punished a tiring Bafana Bafana defence. In the end, they looked like minnows who had put up a strong fight rather than one of the better teams in the tournament. Shame.
12. Guinea (up 2)
After the enormous effort to qualify, you’d be forgiven for thinking Guinea might not be bothered if their team got tanked by three of the better sides in Africa in their group. But they battled hard against Ivory Coast and were perhaps unfortunate not to emerge with the win. Perhaps this will raise expectations a bit beyond what is due, but for now they shall be considered more than also-rans.
13. DR Congo (no change)
An early moment of madness from the hapless Robert Kidiaba and the defence put DRC on the back foot from the beginning, and they looked vulnerable after it. But a second half goal from the superb Yannick Bolasie gave the Leopards a deserved point, although there was little to suggest they are real contenders
14. Zambia (down 3)
After 62 seconds of their game with DR Congo, it looked as if the Chipolopolo were back in business after a difficult period. They seemed likely to build on their lead too, with Rainford Kalaba tormenting the DRC back line. But then it all stopped, they sat back, and they were punished for it. Had they lost, they couldn’t have complained. They have also lost Nathan Sinkala for the rest of the tournament, a massive blow.
15. Equatorial Guinea (up 1)
Though they couldn’t hang on to the win, the host nation’s performance in the tournament opener was one of the bigger surprises of the first round of games. But for a sloppy offside call on Emilio Nsue as he chipped the Congolese keeper, they might have held on for a shock win. They didn’t look like a bunch of players who have barely played together.
16. Congo (down 1)
Claude Le Roy has his work cut out if he is going to guide this Congo side into the next round. Devoid of creativity and defensively unstable, it was hard to work out who the supposed underdogs were in the opener (hint: it wasn’t them). Thievy Bifouma was the one bright spark but he can’t do it all on his own.