Sudan beat South Africa 2-0 at the Al Hilal Stadium in Omdurman on Sunday to secure their first Total Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualification since 2012 when they reached the quarter finals.
Heading into the final round of Group C matches, Sudan needed a win at home by all costs while Bafana Bafana needed just a draw to progress as they went into the game in second place ahead of the Sudanese.
However, it was the home side who would meet their end of the bargain, bagging three points to finish second with 12 points, one ahead of Ghana who finished top after a 3-1 win over Sao Tome and Principe.
First half goals from Saifeldin Maki and Mohamed Abdel Rahman saw Herbert Velud’s men clinch victory on home soil and return to Africa’s premier competition.
The Sudanese went to the breather two goals up, Saifeldin and Abdelrahman having given the home side a healthy advantage and set them one foot into the flight to Cameroon.
They broke the deadlock in the fifth minute when Saifeldin bounced in a header, towering above a forest of players inside the box off a freekick from the left.
On the other end after conceding, South Africa immediately put in the work to try and get back into the game, knowing just a point would be enough to see them qualify.
They had a chance in the 8th minute but defender Samawal Merghani made a decisive block at point blank to deny Percy Tau after he had raced to a Thapelo Morena cross.
The Sudanese were surviving under a half of South African attacks and saw their backline diluted in the 10th minute when Faris Abdallah was forced out injured, his place taken by Omer Ali.
In the 11th minute, a mixture of good goalkeeping an the frame of goal ensured Sudan retained their single goal lead. From a corner, Lebohang Maboe’s header was brilliantly saved by some good reflex from keeper Ali Abdalla.
From the second set piece, skipper Thulani Hlatshwayo saw his cracking header come off the crossbar and when the ball was recycled inside the box, Tau’s shot was saved by the keeper and Luther Singh’s follow up blocked by the defense and the ball hacked away.
In the 18th minute, Bafana had a go at goal again, this time Singh’s well taken low freekick curling beyond the wall but missing the target by a whisker.
When they thought a n equalizer was closer, South Africa were stabbed right where it hurts as Sudan doubled their tally.
From Dhiya Mahjoub’s long ball, Rahman calmly controlled, went into the area before taking out Hlatshwayo with some quick stepovers and slamming the ball into the roof of the net on his left foot.
South Africa were stunned, but remained hungry to get back into the game. At the stroke of halftime, they had a chance when Tau picked a lose ball inside the box, but his stinging shot was pushed away by the keeper.
In the second half, South Africa knew only goals would take them into the match and they made a triple substitution, Lebohang Maboe, Tau and Singh coming off for Ruzaigh Gamildien, Sandile Hlanti and Lyle Foster.
The South Africans piled the pressure. They had a chance in the 74th minute when the Sudanese keeper punched a ball to the edge of the area, but Foster’s shot went over with the keeper out.
Morena had an even better chance a minute later when he was sent through on goal by Themba Zwane, but his shot was punched away by the keeper.
While Bafana piled the pressure, they were almost stung on the counter, but Rahman couldn’t fire his brace with a shot on the left hitting the side netting.
Elsewhere, goals from Nicholas Opoku, Jordan Ayew (penalty) and Baba Rahman were enough for Ghana to beat Sao Tome, with the visitors’ consolation scored by Iniesta in the 83rd minute.