The Gambia continues to match on to a possible first appearance in the Nations Cup with an away draw against Togo on Saturday that places the country in joint second with Togo at 2 points. Assan Ceesay put the Scorpions ahead very early in the match but Gambian hearts were broken just minutes away from the last whistle when Togo cancelled the hopes of a vital three points for The Gambia. Algeria continues to put a firmer grip on the lead with a 2-0 victory against Benin. This now means Algeria has 7 points, Benin 4, while Togo and Gambia are at 2 points. The reverse fixtures will be played tomorrow Tuesday. The Gambia must win Togo and hope that Algeria continues to beat Benin for the Scorpions to have a real good chance to take second position if it can again beat Benin at home… As it stays now what Gambia must do is to win the two home matches starting against Togo tomorrow and the one against Benin coming later. If that is achievable, and our hopes of Algeria beating Benin on Tuesday realized, then The Gambia can even afford to lose the final away fixture to Algeria, regardless of what happened between Togo and Benin in their final match and still finish second which is a ticket to Cameroon.
As per the decision of the Caf Executive Committee on 20 July 2017, a total of 24 teams will qualify to play in the final tournament including Cameroon who qualified automatically as hosts.
The host Cameroon was drawn in Group B. The team was guaranteed a spot in the finals regardless of its ranking in the group, but the matches involving the team counted in determining the qualification of the other teams.
Originally, all group winners plus three best runners-up would have qualified for the finals. From Group B, if Cameroon had finished first or second, the other team placed in the top 2 would have qualified too and no other team would have been eligible to qualify, while if Cameroon had finished third or fourth, the group winner would have qualified and the runner-up would have been eligible to qualify as one of the three best runners-up.
On 20 July 2017, when the first round of the qualifying group stage had already been played, the final tournament was expanded from 16 to 24 teams. Under the new format, the best-placed team other than Cameroon would now qualify from Group B, while the group winners and runners-up would qualify from all other groups.
In short, according to the new format the 12 group winners and runners-up, another 12 qualify for the final tournament. So all what Gambia needs is to try and finish in second place.