Sudan’s national football team, the Desert Hawks, have secured a place in the line-up for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) for the first time in nine years, with a convincing 2-0 victory over South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in the final Group C qualifier in Khartoum on Sunday.
This brings Sudan’s points total to 12, meaning that the squad will join 23 other teams at the 33rd edition of the Afcon finals in Cameroon in January 2022.
In Sunday’s match, which was played in Khartoum’s El Hilal stadium without supporters due to COVID-19 precautions, Sudan put the pressure on Bafana Bafana from the start. The tone was set when Malik Bakhit headed the ball into goal after a free kick in the fifth minute of the match.
Highlights of the Sudan-South Africa match in Khartoum on Sunday
The South Africans failed to capitalise on opportunities to equalise before Abdelrahman Yousif sidestepped their defence to net a second Sudanese goal 25 minutes later.
Sudan’s defence did not waver, and the Desert Hawks repelled several strikes in the goalless second half that looked dangerous. However the South African performance was decidedly lacklustre, leaving Sudan convincingly holding the laurels at Angolan referee Martins de Carvalho’s final whistle.
The result especially qualifies as an upset because the South African team is 71st in the FIFA world rankings, while Sudan, that has not qualified for Afcon since 2012, is rated 127th.
The team are being feted as national heroes and Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok sent the team his congratulation after their win, and pledged to meet with them soon. Commentators and journalists in Sudan hailed the victory as a triumphal symbol of national unity.
The 33rd edition of the biennial Afcon tournament was originally planned for 9 January to 6 February this year, but was postponed due to COVID-19 precautions, will be hosted in Cameroon in January next year.
Sudan has not featured in Afcon since 2012, however the country has a proud track record in the competition. The first Afcon tournament was hosted in Sudan in 1957. In 1959 and 1963, Sudan were runners-up. Khartoum hosted the competition again in 1970 when Sudan emerged as the champions.