Madagascar were the surprise team in the group stages. Participating in the Africa Cup of Nations for the very first time, they have done themselves proud in their debut tournament. They emerged top of their group, which contained experienced teams including Nigeria and Guinea. They managed to win two of their group fixtures, including a memorable 2-0 win against Nigeria. This is the beginning of a new era in their football and they will be full of confidence heading into the knock out stage. They will face DR Congo in what could be another miraculous round for the new kids on the block.
Despite a disastrous start with two defeats against Uganda and Egypt, the DR Congo had to react and win convincingly in their last match against Zimbabwe. The Leopards exceeded expectations with a 4-0 win in that fixture to finish in third place behind Egypt and Uganda. With a good goal difference, DR Congo secured a place in the knockout stages, something they could not have imagined after losing their second game to Egypt.
The Benin football team qualified for the knock out stage for the very first time in history. They played their last group game against Cameroon on Tuesday, where they held up well and managed a goalless draw. This ensured that they had accumulated a total three points with a strong enough goal difference to be ranked third best, thus winning their ticket to the knockout stages. Their qualification led to celebrations throughout the country and even if they have failed to win a single match, their progress means a lot to this team that were considered outsiders from the very word go.
Kenya had to wait until all the group games had been played to learn that they will not progress to the knock out round. Harambee Stars started their campaign with a defeat against Algeria 2-0, before beating Tanzania 3-2. Unfortunately, they lost 3-0 to the Teranga Lions, a result that would ultimately cost them progression. In the end their goal difference of -4 ensured that South Africa would progress to the knock out at their expense.
Angola went into their last group game against Mali hoping to progress after drawing against Tunisia and Mauritania in their first two matches. Only one goal could have seen them qualify but despite all their efforts, the Malian defense was resolute. The result will be received with a lot of celebrations in South Africa since Angola's defeat means that Bafana Bafana go through as one of the four best third-place finishers.
Guinea-Bissau were knocked out of the tournament after losing their last group game to Ghana by a 2-0 score line. They could have gone through with a victory, but missed out after they hit the woodwork three times. They could have qualified as the third placed side but the draw by Benin in their game against Cameroon ensured that that would not be the case. They will take positives here but they will be undone by the fact that they failed to score a single goal in this tournament.