AFCON 2017 Power Rankings – after the group stage

The power rankings are done in order of anticipated likelihood to win the tournament, 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. Senegal (up 1)
The Teranga Lions ascend to the top of the pile after completing the group stage unbeaten despite rotating their side against Algeria, escaping with a 2-2 draw in spite of going behind twice. While the rotation may disrupt the team’s rhythm, on the basis of what we have seen so far they have comfortably been the class of this competition.

2. Ghana (down 1)
While the Black Stars were already through, their defeat to Egypt was disappointing. They failed to muster a goal, suggesting a definite weakness, and now their captain and talisman Asamoah Gyan looks like he’ll be out for the rest of the tournament due to injury. While they remain difficult to beat and have considerable experience, they’re also on the tougher half of the draw.

3. DR Congo (up 1)
Like Senegal, the Leopards progress unbeaten after bashing Togo. While they haven’t always looked convincing, their recent form is very impressive. They face a Ghana side who are on a bit of a downer after a defeat and the loss of their captain. Their quarter-final is perhaps the biggest match in the team’s recent history. Win it, and they will absolutely be major contenders.

4. Tunisia (up 1)
The Carthage Eagles are in the ascendancy. After a disappointing opening match against DR Congo, they have bounced back well, following the huge win over Algeria with a thumping victory over Zimbabwe – while they might not have been the toughest opponents, it has brought them back into the conversation for the title, especially given that their win over the Warriors was bigger than that of the new favourites Senegal.

5. Morocco (up 1)
Herve Renard has done it again! Despite having very little to work with, particularly in attack, he has created another African team with a bruising midfield and solid defence. The win over Ivory Coast marks the Atlas Lions’ return to the continent’s elite and they will be looking to build on this with a winnable quarter-final against Egypt.

6. Egypt (up 3)
After the opening draw and a fortunate win over Uganda, the Pharaohs’ win over Ghana gives them a big confidence boost. Some magic from Mohamed Salah and resolute defending against one of Africa’s best teams was enough to take them through, extending their record-breaking unbeaten run in this competition to 22 games. Next they face another tough defence in what will be an attritional game against fellow North Africans Egypt.

7. Burkina Faso (up 3)
As in 2013, Burkina Faso progress to the knockout stages with two draws and a win over the group minnows. While they have progressed from what is clearly the weakest group in the competition, they are now in the weaker half of the draw and are once again demonstrating what great resolve they have as a squad. Their comfortable win over Guinea-Bissau shows they are potential contenders to at least make the final.

8. Cameroon (no change)
The Indomitable Lions were again unconvincing against Gabon, with Fabrice Ondoa’s late save keeping them in the competition and saving them an awkward trip home. They are still unbeaten, of course, but their only win was a fortunate one over minnows Guinea-Bissau. They haven’t yet demonstrated they are capable of going all the way, so it’s really hard to see it happening.


9. Algeria (down 2)
A 2-2 draw with a second-string Senegal team was an underwhelming way for Algeria to head home, though in the end it mattered little due to Tunisia’s victory. The inquisition will soon be underway now that Georges Leekens has resigned, as well as a hunt for a new manager who can get the defence organised and attackers working well together, something the past three managers have failed to do.

10. Ivory Coast (down 7)
There was some argument prior to the tournament between the SFG bandieras about how Ivory Coast would do. Some argued Ivory Coast were clearly still the favourites in spite of iffy recent form by virtue of being the holders and difficult to beat. I argued that they looked nowhere near as strong as they were two years ago due to a lack of leadership and experience, and there was a decent chance that Renard would knock them out in the last group game. I’m feeling pretty smug right now. The Elephants were dire. Changes are desperately needed.

11. Gabon (no change)
Boooooo. While they came very close to snatching a win over Cameroon, the fact is Gabon go out of the tournament they hosted with no wins, two goals scored, one goal-scorer, and lots of unhappiness. The players just didn’t look bothered for much of the competition, for which we can only speculate. Clearly parachuting Camacho in last minute was a terrible call, but the problem seems to run deeper.

12. Mali (no change)
While the Eagles won the competition for the best shirts in the group stage, they also ended up amongst the front-runners for the Most Disappointing Team award. Alain Giresse totally misused his squad, wasting some talented youngsters, and this nearly led to an embarrassing defeat to one of the tournament’s rank outsiders. Maybe in another group they might have gotten through, but that doesn’t cover up how awful their attack has been throughout all three games.

13. Uganda (up 3) 
The Cranes finally got their first AFCON goal in 39 years when Farouk Miya blasted them into the lead against Mali. Sadly, some magic from Yves Bissouma meant the lead didn’t last long, but they held on for a point that they thoroughly deserved. While there remain holes in this team, you cannot criticise the application. Hopefully Miya will develop into a talismanic figure for this team and we see them in the finals again in two years.

14. Guinea-Bissau (no change)
A disappointing finale for Djurtus saw them comfortably seen off by Burkina Faso. But they showed enough across the three games to prove that they totally deserved to be at this tournament, and that their qualification was no fluke. As with Uganda, hopefully we see them again in the finals as their players develop – ideally with a much better striker than Frederic Mendy.

15. Zimbabwe (no change)
The Warriors’ final game against Tunisia was a mixed bag. Yes, they conceded 4 and their defence was thoroughly outclassed by the Eagles attack. But on the other hand, they did score two and always looked a threat going forward. Knowledge Musona, who had been sorely missed against Senegal, grabbed both goals to leave his mark on the tournament. SFG very much appreciated their combative style, and we’re very sorry that Willard Katsande has retired from internationals to concentrate on the tough job of keeping Steve Komphela happy.

16. Togo (down 3)
The Sparrowhawks headed home having conceded six goals and picked up just a single point which now looks a lot more underwhelming in hindsight with Ivory Coast’s exit. While their team may be a little more talented than the real minnows of Uganda, Guinea-Bissau and Zimbabwe, ultimately they got nowhere near fulfilling this. That 9-minute spell where they led Morocco seems a distant memory – they never topped that. A very disappointing tournament for Claude Le Roy and Emmanuel Adebayor.

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