As Bafana Bafana head to Sudan for their final Africa Cup of Nations qualification game on Sunday, Rob Delport looks at how important this match was always going to be in deciding Group C’s qualifiers.
There had been a lot of attention this week on the Bafana Bafana – Ghana match that was played on Thursday, but in truth it was a fixture that wasn’t really going to play too much influence on who heads to the finals in Cameroon. We’ve kind of known that for five months.
Ever since November’s fixtures were concluded, only one match was going to be a decider, and that is Sunday’s upcoming match at the Al-Hilal Stadium in Omdurman, Sudan.
It was in November that Ghana suffered a 1-0 loss away to Sudan, and turned what looked to be a two-horse race in Group C into a race of three.
Unfortunately the fourth team in the group, Sao Tome & Principe, are good old-fashioned minnows. They were there to make up the numbers, and all other three teams were expected to take six points off of them. It is why so many people are talking about Ghana as if they have already won the group and ensured their qualification.
But Ghana do still have to win the game against Sao Tome to guarantee both those things. Any other result and if the game between Sudan and Bafana is a three pointer, it means that winner would top the group.
Thursday’s 1-1 draw basically only resolved one thing – that there shouldn’t be any need for the historically confusing head-to-head rules.
With Ghana and Bafana moving onto 10 points in the group, one point ahead of Sudan, it means that Sudan have to beat Bafana if they want to reach the finals. All Bafana needs is a draw.
And while Ghana did lose in Sudan, their recent home form over the past few years has not been wonderful.
In their last ten official matches at home, Sudan have only won twice, those two wins being in these qualifiers against Ghana and Sao Tome. They’ve actually lost five of those ten games (against Kenya, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea, Senegal and Nigeria) and managed draws against Tanzania, Morocco and Chad.
With victory all that Sudan can play for, it could actually play nicely into Bafana’s hands, as unlike the defensive tactics employed by Ghana on Thursday, Sunday could be a lot more open. This could open the floodgates for players like Percy Tau and Themba Zwane who thrive on space.
Sudan have never beaten South Africa, in fact, in all three previous meetings Bafana have been victorious.
The only time Bafana played in Sudan before, they won 3-0, Sibusiso Vilakazi scoring a brace, and Bongani Ndulula getting one. That was also in an Afcon qualifier, back in 2014.
Qualification is in Bafana’s hands, and a performance at a similar standard to what we saw on Thursday should actually be enough. But let’s hope we see the national team raise their game and qualify in style.