Nigeria, Ghana, Sen, Zim all still In

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By Confidence Musariri WINDHOEK The euphoria that has surrounded Southern African soccer at nations cup has not ended, as many soccer lovers might believe. After witnessing South Africa, Zambia and Angola play their last matches on dead-rubber basis, many had never considered Zimbabwe’s arithmetic chances of qualifying to the group stages in their last. Senegal need to beat Nigeria and hope that Zimbabwe can pull off a surprise and take at least a point off Ghana to qualify for the African Nations Cup quarterfinals. Nigeria, meanwhile, still need a point to make sure of their place as the so-called Group of Death draws to a dramatic close this evening. Zimbabwe will be through if they score three against Ghana. Nigeria go into the game with six points after beating both Ghana and Zimbabwe in Group D without conceding a goal. Senegal are level on three points with Ghana, while Zimbabwe are bottom without a point. So the Warriors of Zimbabwe do not only need to beat Ghana but do so with a scoreline like 4-0 and even then still hope that Senegal do not get at least a point against Nigeria. But then Ghana, too, would end their campaign with three points and they had a better head-to-head analysis than Senegal after beating the Teranga Lions 1-0. But what do the rules say in such a probability? The regulations governing this tournament show that in the event of three teams completing their group games with the same number of points, head-to-head analysis comes into play. The Nigerian games fall out of the equation and all that comes into consideration are the games played between the three teams. That means Senegal – who have already played Zimbabwe and Ghana – have completed their campaign with three points, having beaten the Warriors and lost to the Black Stars. They have a goal difference of plus one. Zimbabwe have one game, one loss – the 0-2 defeat against Senegal – and a goal difference of minus two. Ghana have one game, one win – the 1-0 victory over Senegal – and a goal difference of plus one. Zimbabwe will need to beat Ghana with at least a three-goal winning margin and hope that Senegal do not snatch a point against Nigeria. Such a scenario will give Zimbabwe the same number of points as Ghana and Senegal and, although they will have the same goal difference with the Teranga Lions, the Warriors will qualify on the back of having scored more goals within their head-to-head mini-league group. If the Warriors win 3-0, they will have a plus one goal difference – the same as Senegal – but then they will go through because they would have scored more goals. So the reality is that there is still a small window for the Warriors who are SADC’s only ray of hope in a tournament that will leave too little for Southern Africans to remember. The reality of the head-to-head format is that Nigeria, who lead the Group of Death with six points, have not yet qualified for the quarter-finals. If Ghana win against Zimbabwe and Senegal beat Nigeria, the three teams will all end up with six points each. That will also see the head-to-head analysis coming into play with the results against Zimbabwe falling out of the equation. All the three teams will have three points and the team with the best goal difference, in the matches they played against each other, will then qualify.