With the removal from the rankings calculations of Djibouti’s last positive result, now over four years old, the tiny African nation on the Horn of Africa have succumbed to the inevitable and returned to the foot of the FIFA world rankings. It is a position they are not unfamiliar with.
This will be Djibouti’s third stint in world football’s basement, after previous brief spells in 2006 and 2007. That last time as the worst in the world was broken by possibly Djibouti’s finest ever result: a 1-0 win over Somalia in World Cup qualification; their only ever win in a full FIFA-sanctioned international. That victory took Djibouti past the preliminary eliminators and through to the group stage for the first, and only, time. It also meant a climb up the rankings and four years grace. Now that match is consigned to history as far as the rankings are concerned, and Djibouti are back in the club once more.
For Djibouti, success on the football field has been long absent. In six matches in 2015 they have been beaten six times, the most recent and most damaging being the World Cup qualifying clashes with Swaziland. Over their two legs Djibouti contrived to lose 8-1 on aggregate, though most of that damage was done in the home match as they suffered a 6-0 defeat. And all that against a Swaziland team that had scored just twice in its previous seven away qualifiers, averaging a goal every 315 minutes. That changed once they met Djibouti.
Sadly for the Shoremen of the Red Sea, that defeat also equalled the biggest away victory in African World Cup qualifying, equalling another 6-0 away win, by Congo in the 2010 qualifiers. Who did they beat? Djibouti.
There have also been African Cup of Nations qualifiers for the 2017 edition, which resulted in defeats at home to Togo, and a thumping in Tunisia. Plus in the African Nations Championship qualifiers – a tournament for national teams made up exclusively of domestic based players – they contrived to lose twice, narrowly, to Burundi.
Prior to this year’s flurry of action it had been four long years since Djibouti had seen any international action. In 2011 both the World Cup preliminary round and the CECAFA Cup went by with nothing but defeat. But in preparing for those two tournaments late that year they played a friendly against near neighbours Somalia. It was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but for Djibouti it was the occasion of their last victory: 1-0. That was in November 2011, four years ago. That result has now been expunged from the rankings calculations, leaving Djibouti, like Anguilla and the Bahamas, with no ranking points to their name.
Some grainy highlights of that victory can be seen here:
Next up for Djibouti will be the CECAFA Cup in a few weeks time, which will see an early opportunity to escae the clutches of the bottom of the world rankings. If that goes horribly wrong, then their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign continues next spring. There will be a double-header of fixtures with Liberia in March next year, before the return matches with Togo and Tunisia later on in 2016. In contrast to our other current worst in the world nations, Djibouti do at least have the luxury of some forthcoming fixtures which may provide a means of escape. Their prospects are not great in the short-term however. Liberia beat the Tunisia team that put eight past Djibouti. Tough times. At the very least it gives us some action to look ahead to next year.