Johannesburg (AFP) – Senegal ended this year as the highest ranked African national team, edging Cup of Nations title-holders the Ivory Coast for top spot in the December listings released Thursday.
Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco complete the top 10 compiled by world governing body FIFA.
All the countries bar Nigeria will be among the 16 challengers for the Cup of Nations title when Gabon stages the 2017 tournament between January 14 and February 5.
Another four qualified teams — Mali, Cameroon, giantkillers Guinea-Bissau and Uganda — are among the top 20 ranked teams.
Gabon-bound Togo and Zimbabwe and the host nation fall outside the elite, but should not be underestimated when the biennial African Cup kicks off in Libreville.
A Senegal side packed with Europe-based professionals, including Sadio Mane of Liverpool and Keita Balde of Lazio, completed their Cup of Nations qualifiers with a perfect six-win record.
But after a routine win over Cape Verde at the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, they fell 2-1 to South Africa, who scored from a penalty that should not have been awarded.
Monthly African rankings released by FIFA Thursday (world ranking in brackets):
1 Senegal (33), 2 Ivory Coast (34), 3 Tunisia (35), 4 Egypt (36), 5 Algeria (38), 6 Democratic Republic of Congo (48), 7 Burkina Faso (50), 8 Nigeria (51), 9 Ghana (53), 10 Morocco (57)
11 Mali (60), 12 South Africa (60), 13 Cameroon (65), 14 Benin (66), 15 Guinea-Bissau (68), 16 Guinea (69), 17 Congo Brazzaville (70), 18 Uganda (72), 19 Cape Verde (80), 20 Libya (85)