Sudan will join Ghana as the Group C teams to qualify for next year’s Afcon in Cameroon, while Bafana Bafana will watch on their television sets with the rest of us.
CAPE TOWN – Bafana Bafana hopes of qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals disappeared into the humid night air at the Al-Hilal Stadium, Omdurman, where Sudan ran out 2-0 winners in the final Group C clash on Sunday evening.
Following this result, Sudan will join Ghana as the Group C teams to qualify for next year’s continental showpiece in Cameroon.
Sudan’s two first-half goals in the shoot-out for Cameroon qualification sealed Bafana Bafana’s fate.
Straight from the opening centre, Sudan set off at great pace, and by the looks of things, it took the South Africans by surprise.
Sudan’s early raid down the left flank ended in a free-kick after South Africa were blown up for a foul some 20 metres from their penalty area.
South Africa failed to clear the set-piece and paid the price. A glancing header by midfielder Malik Bakhit flew past goalkeeper Ronwen Williams for the opening goal of the match, in the fourth minute.
South African responded with a wave of attacks and created at least two chances in the next six minutes. The best opportunity fell to striker Percy Tau. However, he was thwarted by a desperate tackle as he tried to pull the trigger from just outside the penalty area.
Midway through the half, Sudan’s defence absorbed the pressure despite conceding three corners which South Africa could not capitalise on. By this time, South Africa had enjoyed a lion’s share of possession at 62%.
Sudan went further ahead in the 31st minute against the run of play. South Africa were attacking about 10 metres from the opposition penalty area when they gave away possession out wide on the left flank. An innocuous kick upfield across to the opposite side of the field caught South Africa’s defence napping, and unmarked Abdelrahman Yousif latched on to the ball. He darted in from 20 metres out and scored with two defenders trying to dispossess him (2-0).
Again, South Africa responded with a pressure spell, and several scoring chances and two close-in free-kicks emerged. Somehow, Sudan’s defence remained intact as several scoring efforts were marginally wide of the uprights.
The crossbar held out one effort too.
By the time the referee Martins de Carvalho of Angola blew for halftime, South Africa had managed 11 shots at goal, with three on target. South Africa also had a total of six corners to work with, but their set-piece ability was well below par in the first half.
When the second-half play started, the opening 10 minutes were spent in the Sudan half, with South Africa making several sorties into the opposition penalty area. However, the marksmen were hesitant in the striking zone and on occasions, final passes went astray.
Up to this stage of the match, Sudan had shown a greater sense of urgency. This was highlighted when they came out early during the break to do fitness drills ahead of the start of the second half.
Around the hour mark, South Africa made three substitutions, one of which saw Tau surprisingly make way for Sifiso Hlanti. It was not clear at the time if South Africa’s hitherto talisman Tau was injured.
The fresh legs did not provide impact, and soon after they joined the fray, Sudan looked likelier to score.