GORDON Igesund, please read! With all four teams in Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations still in contention for a place in the quarterfinals, the SA Football Association will hopefully have done their homework on the permutations for the final positions.
Bafana Bafana infamously thought they had qualified for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, only to learn after their victory dance that Niger had pipped them to the finals, revealing they had failed to understand the qualification criteria.
In this Afcon, the equation for South Africa’s passage is actually quite simple. The only way they can be knocked out of the competition is if they lose to Morocco and Cape Verde defeat Angola.
That would leave the Moroccans and Cape Verdians on five points and Bafana stranded on four.
The Confederation of African Football have once again decided that when two or more teams are on the same number of points, it will be the head-to-head result between them that determines which team is top.
What this means, perhaps crucially, is that Angola now cannot finish above South Africa in their pool, as the best they can do is draw level with Bafana on four points, assuming they beat Cape Verde and Bafana lose to Morocco. Igesund’s men would trump them by virtue of Wednesday’s 2-0 win in Durban.
The next of the criteria to be used is the goal difference in matches between the teams and then the number of goals scored between the teams. Should all of these be equal, then goal difference in all pool matches will be used.
That means if Bafana draw and Cape Verde beat Angola, it will come down to goal difference in all pool matches to determine who finishes top of the pool as the teams drew 0-0 in their openers, leaving all head-to-head statistics level.
After that goals scored in all pool matches and then potentially the number of yellow and red cards collected by the teams in pool play are counted.
If all of those are equal, then there will be the drawing of lots.
It might not be the best thing to finish top of the pool though, as the winners of Group A will meet the leading side in Group D in the semifinals, most likely to be Ivory Coast.
The other half of the draw should provide a smoother passage into the final.