- Sudan reached a four-year high on most recent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking
- Rise helped by “miracle” results at CAF African Nations Championship
- Sudan are one of Africa’s most historic football nations
Sudan boast a long and proud history in African football, and a recent significant jump to 117 on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking indicates the north Africans are riding a crest of a wave. The next challenge will be to maintain that momentum and return the nation to its glory days of the 1950s and ’60s.
A sprawling nation on the Red Sea, to the south of Egypt, Sudan is Africa’s third-largest country by landmass. Football is the nation’s most popular sport and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Sudan was one of the founding fathers of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Indeed, the Sudanese were one of just three participants in the inaugural CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1957, and were runners-up in 1959 and 1963. Most memorably of all, they won the tournament on home soil in 1970. But that is now a long-distant era and the intervening decades have been poor for Sudanese football.
The improvement began a decade ago as qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations ended a 32-year wait. It got even better four years later as the side reached the last-eight of Africa’s highly competitive elite competition.
The same generation of players took Sudan to the final stage of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Those results helped the nation reach 92 on the global ladder that year, edging them closer to their best-ever position of 74, reached back in 1996.
A second-round exit during the campaign for Russia 2018 meant a dearth of competitive matches, and Sudan headed downwards on the world standings.
However, the appointment of the unheralded Zdravko Logarusic late last year saw a significant upturn in fortunes. Sudan claimed third place at the recent CAF African Nations Championship (CHAN), a result their Croatian coach described as “a miracle”.
Sudan defeated Guinea and Mauritania before an epic quarter-final defeat of Zambia. Even mighty Nigeria could only muster a 1-0 win over the well-organised Sudanese in the semi-final of the 16-nation tournament.
As the competition featured domestic-based players only, Sudan’s achievement provided evidence of the strong competition in the local Premier Division. It also further underlines the country’s growing strength in African club competition over recent years.
Saifeldin Malik Bakhit was the goalscoring hero against Zambia and the Khartoum Club forward believes these results potentially mark the beginning of a prosperous new era for Sudan.
“We had this [CHAN] result thanks to the immense determination of the players who wanted to win the title,” he told FIFA.com. “That resulted in good performances in the competition which helped us to finish third.
“We managed to achieve this position after massive efforts from the players and the national team’s technical staff. It is just the start for us because we have a very big determination to improve more, and hopefully it will be a small step towards reaching better positions.”