AFCON 2022 group scenarios: How each national team can advance to the Round of 16

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If you’ve watched international football tournaments, the final day of group matches, with its simultaneous kickoffs, can offer unique entertainment. With the likes of Algeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Egypt, Tunisia and Senegal all playing for a place in the Round of 16, the stakes for the group-stage finales at AFCON 2022 will be high.

Given how things have shaken out before now in most of the AFCON groups, fans will need the multiscreen option and this handy guide of scenarios. SN has run through all the permutations.

Of course, tiebreaker rules will come into play should two or more teams finish tied on points in the final group standings. One one group (Group E) can have a three-way tie; other potential standings ties would only involve two teams. Here’s the short list of tiebreakers when two teams are even on points, as laid out in the official competition rules (Page 31):

  1. Most points obtained in matches between the two teams;
  2. Goal difference in all group matches;
  3. Most goals scored in all group matches;
  4. Drawing of lots (i.e. random draw).

With that in mind, here are the scenarios for each group heading into the final matchday. The next few days at AFCON 2022 should be entertaining.


Group A scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Cameroon-X 7 3 2 0 1 7 3 +4
2. Burkina Faso-X 4 3 1 1 1 3 3 0
3. Cape Verde 4 3 1 1 1 2 2 0
4. Ethiopia-E 1 3 0 2 1 2 6 -4

X = Qualified for Round of 16 | E = Eliminated

With two draws to close out Group A on Monday, none of the positions changed. 

Host Cameroon needed just one point in its final group game to clinch the top spot and got it. The Indomitable Lions will have a full week before starting their knockout adventure Jan. 24.

Burkina Faso will join them in the Round of 16 after finishing even on points with Cape Verde but winning the first tiebreaker (most points obtained in matches between teams) by virtue of its 1-0 win over the Cape Verdeans.

But with four points in the group stage, Cape Verde has a decent chance of advancing as one of the four best third-place teams. It needs to wait for all the other groups to close before it finds out.


Group B scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Senegal 4 2 1 0 1 1 0 +1
2. Guinea 4 2 1 0 1 1 0 +1
3. Malawi 3 2 1 1 0 2 2 0
4. Zimbabwe-E 0 2 0 2 0 1 3 -2

X = Qualified for Round of 16 | E = Eliminated

Date Match Time (ET) TV / Stream
Tue., Jan. 18 Malawi vs. Senegal 11 a.m. beIN XTRA / fuboTV
Tue., Jan. 18 Zimbabwe vs. Guinea 11 a.m. beIN CONNECT

Anything can still happen in Group B with the top three teams within a point of one another.

What’s for sure is that if Senegal and Guinea win their respective group finales, they’ll go through as No. 1 and No. 2. Another slip-up by Senegal would open the door for Guinea to win the group.

But Malawi can surprise everyone and win the group with a shock win over Senegal coupled with a Guinea draw or loss.

Last-place Zimbabwe can only play spoiler at this point. Even a win would only bring it level with Malawi, but Zimbabwe would lose that tiebreaker based on the head-to-head matchup (2-1 Malawi win).


Group C scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Morocco-X 6 2 2 0 0 3 0 +3
2. Gabon 4 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1
3. Ghana 1 2 0 1 1 1 2 -1
4. Comoros 0 2 0 2 0 0 3 -3

X = Qualified to Round of 16 | E = Eliminated

Date Match Time (ET) TV  / Stream
Tue., Jan. 18 Gabon vs. Morocco 2 p.m. beIN Sports / fuboTV
Tue., Jan. 18 Ghana vs. Comoros 2 p.m. beIN XTRA / fuboTV

Morocco has destiny in its hands as it faces second-place Gabon knowing that a win or draw will clinch the top spot in the group.

A Gabon victory, however, would send the Gabonese through as the top team and drop Morocco to second place. The second-place team will have a date Sunday with Burkina Faso to open the AFCON Round of 16.

But Gabon could also fall to third place. If Ghana wins its match by a wide enough margin and Gabon loses, that would leave Gabon and Ghana tied with four points each. In that case, determining the group runner-up would come down to the second tiebreaker (overall goal difference) since the first tiebreaker — head-to-head group match — finished even (1-1 draw).

Last-place Comoros is also still dreaming. It has to beat favored Ghana and then hope that the results in other groups go its way to finish as one of the four best third-place teams.


Group D scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Nigeria-X 6 2 2 0 0 4 1 +3
2. Egypt 3 2 1 1 0 1 1 0
3. Guinea-Bissau 1 2 0 1 1 0 1 -1
4. Sudan 1 2 0 1 1 1 3 -2

X = Qualified for Round of 16 | E = Eliminated

Date Match Time (ET) TV & Stream
Wed., Jan. 19 Guinea-Bissau vs. Nigeria 2 p.m. beIN Sports / fuboTV
Wed., Jan. 19 Egypt vs. Sudan 2 p.m. beIN XTRA / fuboTV

Nigeria is already through as the first-place team since it owns the tiebreaker (1-0 win over Egypt) in case the Pharaohs manage to catch the Super Eagles in the standings on the final day.

Since Nigeria has nothing left to play for, that could present an opportunity for Guinea-Bissau which would never normally dream of a win against the favored Super Eagles. A four-point finish for Guinea-Bissau would give it a chance to be one of the best third-place teams. And an incredible Egypt loss to Sudan would see a victorious Guinea-Bissau finish as group runner-up.

But if everything goes to script in the Egypt-Sudan match and Mohamed Salah & Co. don’t leave anything to chance, then it should be Nigeria and Egypt going through as the top two teams. Egypt owns the head-to-head tiebreaker (1-0 group win) against Guinea-Bissau should a combination of results leave the two nations even on four points.

Of course, if Sudan can somehow shock the Egyptians, then it could finish at best in second place (with a Guinea-Bissau loss or draw), or at worst in third place and hope that its four points are enough to get it into the Round of 16. But no one has Sudan beating Egypt.


Group E scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Ivory Coast 4 2 1 0 1 3 2 +1
2. Equ. Guinea 3 2 1 1 0 1 1 0
3. Sierra Leone 2 2 0 0 2 2 2 0
4. Algeria 1 2 0 1 1 0 1 -1
Date Match Time (ET) TV & Stream
Thu., Jan. 20 Ivory Coast vs. Algeria 11 a.m. beIN XTRA / fuboTV
Thu., Jan. 20 Sierra Leone vs. Equ. Guinea 11 a.m. beIN CONNECT

A shock loss for defending champion Algeria and Ivory Coast’s draw in the last round of matches has left the two heavyweights entering their group finale — a head-to-head matchup — both needing to win, which will make for a compelling match for the neutral.

Why Algeria needs to win: The Fennec Foxes have no alternative. A loss would eliminate them and a draw would likely produce the same outcome.

If Algeria beats Ivory Coast, the possibilities open up. Victory would send it through in second place if there’s also a winner in the other group game (Sierra Leone vs. Equatorial Guinea).

And Algeria can still finish in first place: A draw in the other group game, coupled with an Algeria win, would create a three-way tie at four points apiece. Algeria could win that tie if it can beat Ivory Coast by two goals or more. A one-goal Algeria win would introduce other tiebreakers, per tournament rules (page 32).

Why Ivory Coast needs to win: A draw or loss could see the Elephants overtaken for first place (and even second place) in the group. That would all but guarantee a much tougher Round of 16 matchup.

For their part, Equatorial Guinea and Sierra Leone should treat fans to a wide-open game with each aiming for a victory that could potentially crown it as Group E winner depending on what happens in Algeria-Ivory Coast.

While Sierra Leone can’t really afford to settle for the draw, Equatorial Guinea could be content with a tie since a four-point haul should be enough to get it out as, at worst, a third-place team.


Group F scenarios

Team PTS GP W L D GF GA GD
1. Mali 4 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1
2. Gambia 4 2 1 0 1 2 1 +1
3. Tunisia 3 2 1 1 0 4 1 +3
4. Mauritania-E 0 2 0 2 0 0 5 -5

X = Qualified to Round of 16 | E = Eliminated

Date Match Time (ET) TV & Stream
Thu., Jan. 20 Gambia vs. Tunisia 2 p.m. beIN XTRA / fuboTV
Thu., Jan. 20 Mali vs. Mauritania 2 p.m. beIN Sports / fuboTV

With Mauritania having nothing to play for (it would lose a third-place tiebreaker against Tunisia based on head-to-head result), that sets up an ideal group finale for Mali, which needs a win by a few goals to lock up the top spot in the group. 

Anything but a Mali win in that match would open the door for Gambia or Tunisia to go top with a win, giving them plenty of motivation to chase a victory when they meet.

Tiebreaker between Mali, Gambia: If Mali and Gambia are tied on seven points, the second tiebreaker (overall goal difference) would kick in. The team that wins its finale by the widest margin finishes in first place.

If the two nations are tied on five points, a third tiebreaker (overall goals scored) would be needed since the first tiebreaker (head-to-head result) is even from their 1-1 draw and the second tiebreaker (overall goal difference) would also be deadlocked at plus-1 for both. So the team involved in the highest-scoring of the two draws would finish on top in the group.

Tunisia’s stakes: Even after losing its first group game to Mali, it can still dream of finishing in first place (a Tunisia win and a Mali draw or loss) or second place (a Tunisia win and a Mali win). But even a draw against Gambia wouldn’t be a bad result with four points likely enough to get it into the knockouts. And that’s all any team is worried about at this stage.

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