AFCON 2021: South Africa Eliminated After Losing In Sudan

South African national football team ahead of their 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match against Ghana at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on March 25, 2021. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

 

South Africa failed to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations after losing 2-0 to Sudan Sunday in a final-round Group C match in Omdurman.

Saifeldin Malik gave the hosts a fifth-minute lead in a clash of former African champions by heading past goalkeeper Ronwen Williams off a free- kick.

Mohammed Abdelrahman doubled the lead on 31 minutes, taking advantage of hesitancy by captain Thulani Hlatshwayo before firing past Williams at his near post.

South Africa coach Molefi Ntseki took off star forward Percy Tau just past the hour and surprisingly replaced him with a defender, Sifiso Hlanti, given the desperate need for goals.

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Ghana defeated Sao Tome e Principe 3-1 in Accra in a match played at the same time to finish first with 13 points, followed by Sudan (12), South Africa (10) and Sao Tome (0).

South Africa have gradually faded as a Cup of Nations force after hosting and winning the competition in 1996 and finishing second and third in the following two editions.

Failure to qualify for the 2021 tournament in Cameroon means Bafana Bafana (The Boys) will miss the finals of the marquee African national team competition for the fourth time in seven editions.

Earlier, Tunisia beat Equatorial Guinea 2-1 in Rades in a match between countries who had already qualified from Group J while Tanzania edged Libya 1-0 in Dar es Salaam in the same section.

Guinea, who secured a place at the 24-team tournament earlier this week, surrendered an unbeaten Group A record when losing 2-1 to Namibia in Windhoek.

Mediocrity Now Celebrated In Super Eagles, Says Sunday Oliseh

Super Eagles legend, Sunday Oliseh has lamented the fallen profile of the senior national team, saying that the 1994 African champions now lack quality. 

Oliseh said unlike his playing days, the present Super Eagles side can only boast of a handful of players featuring for top-flight European clubs.

“The demands that we have; the qualification that you have before you can play for the Super Eagles; the bar has been reduced,” the former Nigerian captain told Channels Television’s Sports This Morning on Friday.

“We as a nation are now happy with mediocrity. We celebrate even third place in Africa. When you are Nigerian, you are the best. You don’t celebrate even second.”

‘The Best Has To Play’

While recalling how he felt when the West African side lost the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final to Cameroon, he said playing for Nigeria should be a thing of pride, insisting that the best have to be picked for national assignments.

“That is why when I coached Super Eagles, the first thing I told them was ‘If you are not playing in the first division anywhere in the world, forget Super Eagles’ because the best has to play here,” the 1996 Olympic gold medalist added.

In the past, Oliseh noted that Nigerian players faced one another in the UEFA Champions League, but admitted that the situation is not the same presently, singling out Leicester City midfield enforcer, Wilfred Ndidi as one of the few doing well at the moment.

“We don’t have a lot of top players playing at the top level at the moment,” the Delta-born ex-footballer explained.  “In fact, the most solid player we have now is Ndidi because he has got a lot as a player. ”

Nigeria are billed to face the Crocodiles of Lesotho at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos on March 30, 2021, the first time the three-time African champions will be playing a competitive game in the city in 20 years.

A file photo of the Super Eagles of Nigeria during a training session.

 

And Oliseh who captained Nigeria when they lost the 2000 AFCON final in Lagos, has welcomed the move, describing fans in the commercial city as “demanding.”

“You have to be at your best to play there,” he said following the decision to bring the 2021 AFCON qualifier to Lagos.

He added, however, that, “there is an advantage to it. The advantage to it is that you always bring your ‘A’ game when you come to play for Nigeria and you know that you have to play well and it is not a luxury playing for Nigeria; it has to be  an honour wearing the green white green.”