AFCON 2015 Power Rankings – after the second matches

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 second round of matches:

1. Tunisia (up 2)
After failing to break down a stubborn Cape Verde side, this was a bit better from Tunisia, seeing off the lacklustre Chipolopolo despite a brief scare. With Algeria’s defeat to Ghana, they now look the most difficult to beat side. It would be a major shock if they didn’t come through their last match and advance into the knockout stages.

2. Cameroon (no change)
Another 1-1 draw for the Indomitable Lions. They looked impressive going forward against Guinea, and relatively solid at the back, but one moment of magic from Ibrahima Traore meant they are still without a win. They have a tough match against Ivory Coast to come, and it would be a shame if they didn’t get through, but they are now effectively playing knockout football

3. Algeria (down 2)
Well well well. This should have been the match where the Desert Foxes confirmed their status as title favourites, by sending home a Ghana side that had been very disappointing in their opener. Instead, Asamoah Gyan’s last-minute winner has exposed more Algerian weaknesses and left them needing to beat an in-form Senegal team to advance. As it stands, they are currently out.

4. Senegal (no change)
Though they may not have gone up any places, Senegal are in a very strong position at the moment. By avoiding defeat to a pacy, skilful South Africa side, they have established themselves as the leaders of the tournament’s ‘group of death’ with one match to go. A draw against Algeria puts them through, and Alain Giresse knows how to make an African team that’s hard to beat. They are now serious contenders.

5. Ghana (up 1)
Without being exceptional, the Black Stars have somehow reaffirmed their position as one of the favourites. Missing in the first game due to illness and anonymous for most of the second, Asamoah Gyan reminded everyone why you can never count him and Ghana out. His late goal has kept them in the tournament and might have prevented a very early dismissal for Avram Grant. However, they need to beat South Africa.

6. Gabon (down 1)
This was more difficult for the revelations of the first day. After beating Burkina Faso, one might have expected Gabon to stroll past a mediocre Congo team and secure their place in the second round. Instead, they slumped to a shock defeat. A draw in the last game against Equatorial Guinea will be enough due to the head-to-head rule, but this isn’t a particularly comfortable position to be in when you’re playing against the hosts.

7. Ivory Coast (no change)
An improved performance for the Elephants but another late draw courtesy of Max Gradel’s equaliser. They looked the better side for much of the match against Mali but were always working from a position of weakness having gone behind, so it might be slightly misleading. They remain alive and always have a chance, even if they’re nowhere near as good as we know they can be.

8. Mali (up 2)
Coming into this tournament, nobody really expected much of Mali but they have battled to take draws against two of the favourites, and are a win against Guinea away from a surprise progression. Henryk Kasperczak has done a good job so far, and Bakary Sako has been one of the better attackers in this AFCON.

9. Guinea (up 3)
A draw against Cameroon proves that the draw against Ivory Coast was no fluke for Guinea, who had the chances to beat one of the pre-tournament favourites. They are performing far beyond expectations and now theoretically have their ‘easiest’ game, though Mali are obviously not an easy team to beat. Could go either way – while everyone is watching Ivory Coast-Cameroon, this might be one of the most interesting games of the tournament.

10. Cape Verde (down 2)
So far, so solid, but so unspectacular. The Islanders remain undefeated after two games, although their stock may have dropped slightly after failing to see off DR Congo. Lack of flair and goals is still holding this team back from becoming genuine contenders.

11. South Africa (no change)
Should Bafana Bafana be disappointed with their performances so far? Yes, there are always high expectations in South Africa, and certain key individuals haven’t been brilliant, specifically Tokelo Rantie, but this was always going to be a tough group for such an inexperienced squad. They still could go through, and they were better against Senegal, but it seems as if they are heading for the exit.

12. Burkina Faso (down 3)
No goals yet for Burkina Faso, whose defeat to Gabon now looks even more incongruous (or is that in-CONGO-ruous?!?!) compared to their 2013 form after the latter’s defeat to in their second match. If the former finalists have anything more to give, it’ll have to come against Congo – they have to win to progress.

13. Congo (up 3)
An improved performance from Claude Le Roy’s men, who surprisingly rallied from their sterile performance against the hosts to beat in-form Gabon and keep themselves well in the hunt for qualification for the quarter-finals, despite not being…well, all that great. A draw against a Burkina Faso side struggling to score will be enough to see them through, but that’s easier said than done.

14. Equatorial Guinea (up 1)
After yielding to Thievy Bifouma’s late equaliser in the first game, the hosts held firm this time against an increasingly stagnant-looking Burkina Faso team. It’s hard to work out exactly how good they are – has an easy draw pitted them against mediocre teams, or are they genuinely battling hard against potential contenders? We may not even find out against Gabon.

15. DR Congo (down 2)
It took a moment of magic from Yannick Bolasie in the first game to find a goal, but second time around and there wasn’t even that for Florent Ibenge’s team. Considering all the talk that after the disappointment of two years ago this time would be different, and the change of personnel in attack, DR Congo have shown no progress. It’s hard to believe this team beat Ivory Coast in qualifying and were relatively free-scoring.

16. Zambia (down 2)
It’s fair to say now that the Zambia team of 2012 is no more. There were hints of it in 2013, when they drew all three games and went out without ever really looking the same, but now, with a first defeat in an AFCON since 2010, there’s very little resemblance between the great Herve Renard side and this one. The Chipolopolo are just another team now, and they’re almost certainly heading home.

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