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Sudan’s domestic players show Africa the benefit of team-work


After what we’ve seen at this year’s Africa Cup of Nations it’s perhaps a little foolish to talk in terms of more shocks. Why should we continue to be shocked when our predictions are continually thrown back in our faces time after time?

Sudan became the latest side to upset the African apple cart when they qualified for the quarter finals last night. It was the first Africa cup of nations game that Sudan had won since the 1970 final (Jonathan Wilson covers this excellently in his article this morning), and it’s the first time since Uganda in 1978 that an east African nation is represented in the last eight.

Much has been made in pre-tournament reviews about the fact that every single member of the Sudanese squad is based within the country. This point was often made derogatorily towards the side in the build up to the tournament, but perhaps now that Sudan are through to the quarter finals we can view their domestic status with a little more positivity.

The Angolans (the side who the Falcons of Jediane pipped to second place) must be sick of the sight of Sudanese striker Mudathir El-Tahir. Not only did Mudathir score a brace against Burkina Faso in the final group game to qualify Sudan as runners-up over the Angolans, he also scored a brace for his club side Al-Hilal against Angola’s Recretavio Caála in the African Champions League (Al-Hilal won the tie 3-1 on aggregate).

Interestingly the other Angolan side in the Champions Legue last season, Inter Luanda, only just scraped Sudanese giants Al-Merreikh on penalties. With these results between the two nation’s clubs sides in mind it’s perhaps not entirely surprising that Sudan have managed to knock Angola out of the African Cup of Nations. After all, the Sudanese league is ranked fifth best in Africa (only behind Tunisia, Egypt, Nigeria and DR Congo) whilst the Angloan league is ranked joint 12th and the Angolan squad does contain a healthy dose of their own domestic talent in their squad. It’s undeniable that the experience gained from African players in top European leagues is invaluable to the development of a country’s football talent, however the power of team-work can never be underestimated.

In comparison to most other countries Sudan have had unparalleled opportunities to blend a team. In addition to competitions such as the CHAN mentioned in the Guardian article, Sudan came a very creditable 3rd in the most recent CECAFA Cup (a competition for East African nations), whilst the bulk of the Sudanese side come from only two clubs (the previously mentioned Al-Hilal and Al-Merreikh). In the match against Burkina Faso seven of the Sudan starting eleven were supplied from Al-Hilal, three from Al-Merreikh and a solitary member from Al-Ittihad. In comparison to this the Burkinabe squad contained players who played in fourteen different nations, the Angolans picked a set of players from eight different leagues.

Sudan now move onto the quarter finals where they face Zambia. The Chipolopolo are another side that draw many of their players from Africa (only Chisamba Lungu (Ural SverDlovsk, Russia) and Emmanuel Mayunka (Young Boys) play in European leagues). There could be an interesting sub-plot in this quarter final tie as Zambian winger Jonas Sakuwaha, like nine of the Sudanese squad, plays his football in Omdurman for Al-Merreikh. Sakuwaha has not yet played in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations but his tactical insight into many of his club team-mates could prove invaludable. It’s inevitable that Zambian coach Herve Renard will have a chat with him about Sudan as Renard chose to attend Angola vs Cote D’Ivorie.

Even Renard expected an Angolan victory.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Africa

 

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Africa Cup of Nations 2012 Group B: Sudan 0 Ivory Coast 1


Over the Sunday afternoon’s match between Sudan and Ivory Coast was the third match in succession where one of the goalkeeper’s had sported a kit in a  horrific shade of purple, making goalkeeper’s look like blueberries and in need of an Oompa Loompa escort to Willie Wonka’s juicing room. It was a lacklustre performance from the Ivory Coast. Many were expecting the Elephants to steamroller Sudan but the well drilled and efficient Sudanese held the Ivorians relatively comfortably for long periods of the tie.

Sudan may have even snatched a point (or more) had Mudathir El-Tahir’s shot not been acrobatically tipped onto the crossbar by purple-bedecked Boudacir Barry’s flying fingertips. [Kit officianados who spend the long winter evenings reading FIFA documentation regarding kit regulations will be interested to see both Sudan and Ivory Coast wearing predominantly white socks (a flash of orange on white being the only difference between the sides). The Mauritian referee could well be dragged before a shadowy committee sometime after the end of the Africa Cup of Nations]

A question often asked about players is whether they can take their club form onto the international arena. Well, in the case of Gervinho that’s entirely true. The Arsenal forward showed that he can also be frustratingly inconsistent and profligate whilst wearing the colours of his international side Ivory Coast.  Ultimately it was his strike partner Didier Drogba who headed in from a  Solomon Kalou cross that handed the spoils to the west Africans over east Africa’s only representative at this Cup of Nations. Whilst the Ivorians won’t be pleased with the performance they’ll take some solace from the result, especially after seeing the Senegalese come unstuck against Zambia on Saturday.

The Elephants appeared to suffer from a similar disability to Senegal. Whilst you can see the undoubted talent of the players they appear not to be able to add tempo to their quality. If a team is well organised and drilled like Sudan they can often deal with accurate passing, it’s when this passing is executed in addition to a fast tempo that team’s often struggle to cope. This slow tempo led to my mind wandering from time to time, I began to quietly sing “His name was Lolo, he was a full-back” about the Ivorian right-back Igor Lolo (who’s currently keeping Arsenal favourite Emmanuel Eboue out of the side) and wondering whether Equatorial Guinea keeper Danilo could be convinced to sing this song at the end of tournament party, should this sort of event even exist.

I can only put this odd and embarrassing episode down to the fact that the Equatorial Guinean authorities have seen fit to place the camera for the Malabo stadium on top of the main stand and the pictures from Gabon are from such a height that they can give the casual viewer a form of vertigo. I’m not sure that the Ivorian players can make the same excuse.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2012 in Africa

 

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African Nations Championships 2011


The African Nations Championship (or CHAN) is unique amongst international football tournaments in that nations are restricted to selecting only domestic players in their squads. The 2011 edition of this tournament begins this week in Sudan with the hosts taking on Gabon in Khartoum.

As the competition only allows the selection of domestically based players the standards of each respective international side is a little different to “full internationals”. I’ve built up a table below showing each competing nation’s African ranking (by FIFA World Rankings) plus the current CAF 5 Year Ranking (used to rank sides in CAF Champions League draws), it makes for interesting reading.

 

 

Nation Lg. Int.
Tunisia 1 9
Sudan 4 25
Congo DR 5 32
Algeria 6 10
Cote d’Ivorie 7 2
Mali 9 18
Cameroon 10 6
Angola 11 26
Zimbabwe 12 28
Ghana 13 1
South Africa 14 8
Guinea 19 7
Senegal 13
Uganda 19
Niger 22
Rwanda 36

As you can see there’s very little correlation between the relative strengths of the leagues and international sides. How these rankings will translate into performances of national teams is anyone’s guess. Many national sides competing in the CHAN have had issues with players leaving domestic leagues and becoming ineligible so examining the relative strengths of squads is very difficult.

Winners of the previous CHAN competition in 2009 DR Congo have been poor in international football over the past couple of years, yet the national league is thriving with TP Mazembe winning consecutive African Champions League titles. Eleven of the Mazembe squad that starred in the recent World Club Championships are included in DR Congo’s final squad along with many players from the AS Vita Club side who are the reigning DR Congo champions. To put DR Congo’s victory into some sort of context they are ranked 32 in CAF, the same position that Romania hold in UEFA.

Familiar names to British football fans are hard to come by. Bobby Williamson will lead the Cranes of Uganda into another tournament aiming to repeat their semi-final success in last month’s East African CECAFA tournament. Intriguingly the coach of Zimbabwe is Madinda Ndlovu, a name that will bring back memories of early days Premier League football as his brother Peter played for Coventry City over 150 times and played for over 10 years for various clubs in the English football pyramid.

Cynics may view the competition as an easy place for European scouts to pick up the best of African domestic talent. However very few players who played during the 2009 CHAN found moves into Europe. Congolese striker Serge Bongeli had a spell late last year with FC Brussels in Belguim, whilst Zambian Jonas Sakuwaha had a spell with Lorient and Le Havre in France. Ivorian defender Elysée Irié Bi Séhi is currently playing second flight football in Russia, and his international  team-mate Antoine N’Gossan earned himself a move to Charlton Athletic before being loaned back to the Ivory Coast with ASEC (via a short spell at Belgian club Waregem). Perhaps the only player to make any sort of significant impact in Europe is  Tanzanain Henry Shindika who is currently a regular in Norweigian side Kongsgiver’s midfield.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Africa, International

 

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