The Gambia’s qualification to its maiden Africa Cup of Nations has been rewarded with an upward improvement of five places in the latest FIFA World Rankings released by football’s world governing body on Wednesday.
Ranked 152nd place for the month of April, this is 20 places better than the country was in when Tom Saintfiet took over as head coach.
The Belgian guided the Scorpions to a first ever AFCON qualification with victory over the Palancas Negras of Angola on 25th March, 2021 with top striker Assan Ceesay scoring what could arguably be described as the most important goal in Gambian football history. And despite a 1-0 defeat to the Leopards of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the final match day, the Gambians still finished top of Group D qualifying with 10 points from six matches.
The draw for the competition will take place on June 25 with the tournament to be played from January 9 to February 6 in 2022. The championship was due to take place in January and February of 2021, but the Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced last June that it has rescheduled the event to 2022 due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had prevented qualifiers taking place.
The Gambia is among 23 teams that have booked a place in the tournament following the last round of qualifiers held last month. The last and final place of the 24-team tournament will be determined in June, after CAF rescheduled the match between Sierra Leone and Benin due to the latter’s refusal to play when five of their players tested positive for Covid19 in Freetown.