Gambia is lowest ranked side to win AFCON Group

Apr 26, 2021, 12:14 PM

When the world football governing body, FIFA, released its latest country rankings for the month of April, Gambia was all the way down in 152 in the globe and 45 in Africa.

Representing an improvement of five places from the previous month, this came just at the back of securing a maiden African Cup of Nations berth.

By the time the tournament gets underway in Cameroon in January 2022, it would have been nearly 70 years since the formation of association football in the country.

This achievement by the Scorpions is not only remarkable, it is in fact unquantifiable.

Not only did Gambia secured that long illusive AFCON spot on March 25, Tom Saintfiet’s charges did so by finishing top of Group D ahead of Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.

Amongst the 24 teams that will take part in the competition in Cameroon, The Gambia is the lowest ranked side.

Not only was it the lowest ranked team in Group D, the boys from Banjul are also the only team of the 12 group winners that won its qualification group where it is not the highest ranked side.

To further demonstrate this achievement as unarguably the most successful period in Gambian football history, all the other 11 group winners are in fact currently the top 11 ranked sides in the continent.

From Senegal, 22, to DR Congo, 60 in the world, the Leopards are the only side in the top 12 in Africa not only to have failed to top their qualifying log, but also missed out on qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations next year.

Gabon is 88 in the world and 19 in Africa whereas the Palancas Negras of Angola is 126 and 34 respectively.

With 92 places between The Gambia and the highest ranked side in the group, it is a further demonstration of the gulf in class that is supposed to be between this West African country of just over two million people, the smallest in mainland Africa, and the rest of their group rivals.

Only on paper though.

For even though both Congo and Angola are previous World Cup finalists, the Scorpions defeated the latter twice in the campaign, condemning them to an embarrassing 4-1 aggregate loss.

Gabon, 64 places ahead of Gambia, ended their campaign with a 3-3 aggregate draw with Saintfiet’s charges having both secured identical 2-1 home wins.

The Gambia though finished in pole position on goal difference because it scored the highest number of goals in Group D of qualifiers.

Gabon are perennial Africa Cup of Nations finalists and the Leopards are the only side in the group not to have lost to the Gambians.

However, it can be argued that with the final match day coming after the Scorpions had already known their faith, the outcome could have been different if it were otherwise.

It is indeed a remarkable achievement of epic proportions, how the Saint, has turned the fortunes of the Scorpions from one of the whipping boys and perennial underachievers in African football to one that is now feared and taken seriously by every opponent in just a little over two years.