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.