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AFCON 2023: Ivory Coast and other teams that can still qualify as best losers as Ghana officially crash out

The Black Stars of Ghana became the first third-place team to officially be eliminated from the Group Stage, giving other teams a chance to qualify as one of four best losers
The qualification dynamics of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2023, particularly the race for the Round of 16 spots as the best losers, is a fascinating aspect of the tournament.

The format of the AFCON allows for the four best third-placed teams from the group stages to advance to the knockout stage, creating a high-stakes scenario for several teams who are battling to sneak into the round of 16.

Third-place teams that have crashed out or qualified
Ghana’s disappointing 2-2 draw against left them with only two points from three games in Group B, after another draw against Egypt and a loss to Cape Verde.

The Black Stars were officially eliminated despite finishing third in Group B thanks to Cameroon’s extra-time win over Gambia which pushed Guinea to third place on four points.

Despite losing to Senegal in their final group game, Guinea are guaranteed to be one of the best losers after finishing with more points than Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Teams vying for best loser round of 16 places
With one best loser place already going to Guinea, there are three more places up for grabs, and as many as eight teams eligible for one of those places.

Ivory Coast are in dire need of results to go their way after finishing the group stage with only three points and a -3 goal difference.

Namibia in Group E are in a similar situation with the same amount of points and goal difference, but they still have one more group match against Mali left to play.

Mali have already qualified from the Group, but the other two teams, Tunisia and South Africa face off in a winner-takes all match for a berth in the next round.

Algeria and Mauritania also face off in a similar encounter with the winner taking a huge step in sealing a place in the round of 16. A draw will be enough for Algeria to qualify and knock out Ivory Coast on goal difference, while Mauritania could do the same with a shock win over the Foxes.

Zambia also need only one point against Morocco in Group F to seal a place in the round of 16, while DR Congo and Tanzania also have differing chances of making it to the second round with a draw or win respectively.

A reminder of the tiebreaker criteria for best losers
The criteria for selecting the best losers are meticulously defined, ensuring a fair and competitive process.

Points Tally: The most crucial factor is the number of points each team has accumulated in their group matches. Teams with higher points have a better chance of qualifying.

Goal Difference: In cases where teams are tied on points, goal difference becomes the next deciding factor. This criterion evaluates the number of goals scored against the number of goals conceded in all group matches.

Total Goals Scored: If teams remain tied after considering goal differences, the total number of goals scored in the group stage is used to break the tie.

Drawing of Lots: As a last resort, if all other criteria fail to separate the teams, a drawing of lots by the organizing committee is conducted to determine the qualifiers.

Impact of Other Matches: The fate of the teams also depends significantly on the outcomes of other group matches. A surprising result in any of the games could dramatically change the qualification scenario.

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