Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP |
Guinea-Bissau winning a group in which they were expected to finish last was the biggest shock of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying competition that ended at the weekend.
The tiny Portuguese-speaking west African country reached the finals for the first time at the expense of former champions Zambia and Congo Brazzaville and Kenya.
They will be at the 16-team tournament in Gabon during January and February while notable absentees include previous title-holders Nigeria and South Africa.
AFP Sport picks five winners and five losers after an elimination process that spanned 16 months and produced 363 goals at an average of 2.5 per match.
Have no stars and coach Baciro Cande is virtually unknown, but home and away wins over Kenya and a 3-2 triumph over Zambia in Bissau thanks to a stoppage-time Toni Silva goal secured top spot with a fixture to spare.
After a string of near misses in qualifying competitions, Uganda are going to the finals for the first time since 1978 with a narrow home win over the Comoros securing one of two places reserved for the best runners-up.
The only qualifiers to finish with a 100 percent record, after home and away victories over Burundi, Namibia and Niger, is testimony to the organisation and consistency coach and former star Aliou Cisse has developed.
A stoppage-time equaliser from Mohamed Salah in Nigeria against the run of play proved crucial as record seven-time champions Egypt won the return match in the ‘group of death’ to halt a run of three failed qualifying campaigns.
A chaotic start induced by a shortage of funds forced the squad to make a 24-hour bus journey to Malawi, but they won 2-1 to set in motion a five-match unbeaten run that secured top spot while favourites Guinea flopped.
The withdrawal of cash-strapped Chad turned the matches against Egypt into group deciders and after being held at home in a match they dominated, the Super Eagles fell to a Ramadan Sobhy goal in Alexandria and were eliminated.
Instead of contesting first place with eventual group winners Cameroon, Bafana Bafana (The Boys) never recovered from a disastrous start in which they were held by Gambia and lost to Mauritania and finished a humiliating third.
A downward turn by Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) since shocking Ivory Coast to win the 2012 final continued after drawing three and losing one of four qualifiers this year to end third in a group won by no-hopers Guinea-Bissau.
A team ranked No. 1 in Africa for one month this year needed a home victory over modest Libya to seal a third consecutive Cup of Nations appearance, but lost to a stoppage-time goal in a game interrupted by a dog wandering around the pitch.
The central African country have been unable to sustain progress after reaching the 2015 quarter-finals despite defeating group winners Guinea-Bissau home and away. A shock loss in Kenya proved fatal.