12 August 2017 09:10
Sudan’s hope of qualifying for the final tournament of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) after two recent unsuccessful attempts faces a crucial test as they play as guests of Ethiopia this weekend in the first leg of the third and final round of the qualifiers for the 2018 edition.
The Desert Hawks’ only participation in the tournament designed exclusively for footballers playing in their domestic leagues was in 2011, when they finished third as host.
For the maiden edition in 2009 in Cote d’Ivoire, the Sudanese were denied of the only slot allotted to the Central-East Zone, losing 5-2 on aggregate to Tanzania.
Following their third place feat in 2011 on home soil and with the regions slot increased to three, the Desert Hawks were favoured to qualify for the 2014 edition hosted in South Africa. However, their dream never saw the light of day after Burundi edged them 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 tie on aggregate.
Uganda was their nemesis two years later, after a 4-0 aggregate win ensured the Sudanese yet again missed out on the party, this time to Rwanda.
In line with their vision of rewriting the books this term, the Desert Hawks traveled to Kigali 5 August 2017 for a five-day training camp with the climax being a friendly with Rwanda, which they lost 2-1, as part of preparation for the final round clash with Ethiopia.
With the first leg due for the Ethiopian city of Hawassa on Sunday, 13 August 2017, Technical Advisor, Mohamed Abdallah “Mazda” has called up four new players to boost his squad. The quartet include Al Hilal pair right-back Atahar Al-Tahir and defensive midfielder Abu Aqla Abdullah and El Merreikh duo, midfielder Al-Samani Al-Sawi and striker Mohammed Abdul Rahman.
The four are the only players from the traditional giants, Hilal and Merreikh, after playing Burundi at the previous round without any representation from the two biggest clubs.
“We are going to Ethiopia to play a tough game, and for a result which can greatly determine the possibility of qualifying for Kenya 2018. We trust our players, and the new spirit that the team has found will help us.
“We are fighting to qualify for this tournament to a build a new generation for Sudan, to face the challenges for the next six years. We will fight hard to reach the finals in Kenya because it provides us with games for new players because they need such competitions to develop quickly,” said Mazda.
The return leg will take place on Saturday, 19 August 2017 in El Obeid with the winner of the two legs qualifying for the final tournament scheduled for 12 January to 4 February 2018 in Kenya.
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