- Ramadan Agab scored hat-trick against Chad
- Sudan have reached group stage of Qatar 2022 qualifiers
- Falcons of Jediane star hopes team can meet fans’ expectations
Sudan boast a long and proud history in African football. Indeed, the Falcons of Jediane participated in the inaugural CAF Africa Cup of Nations in 1957, when they finished in third, and were runners-up in the second and fourth editions before claiming the title in 1970.
At that time, Sudan also came close to reaching the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico™ having progressed to the second round of African qualifiers, where they were drawn alongside Morocco and Nigeria. However, declining performances in the years that followed left them well out of contention for a place at the finals.
Now, though, a new generation of Sudanese players have set themselves the goal of gracing the global showpiece after making an ideal start to the CAF qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. They beat Chad 3-1 away from home before holding them to a goalless draw in Sudan to progress to the second round of qualifiers, where they were drawn in Group I alongside Morocco, who appeared at Russia 2018, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
Sudan’s emphatic win over neighbouring Chad came courtesy of a hat-trick from Ramadan Agab, who spoke with FIFA.com about their first-round success and his side’s ambitions in the qualifiers.
Sudan failed to go beyond the second round of African qualifiers for Russia 2018 after losing home and away to Zambia. So after being pitted against Chad in the first round of the current qualifiers, their sole focus was on making the group stage as the first step on the road to Qatar.
However, with the first leg away from home, the Falcons of Jediane knew an adverse result on the road could impact their performance in front of their fans and put their qualification hopes at risk.
Despite the absence of some key players, Sudan seized the initiative in the away fixture, where a hat-trick from the seasoned midfielder paved the way to the group stage.
"Yes, this match was very special," Agab told FIFA.com. "We went there to win. Thank God I took advantage of the chances I had and scored three goals with the help of my team-mates. Everything was perfect in that game."
Agab did not start the second leg in Omdurman, where the teams drew 0-0 after Chad missed a penalty ten minutes from time. "After that great result away from home, our coach decided we should adopt a more conservative approach at home. We knew they needed to score but didn't want to give them any chances. We were comfortable with the two-goal advantage, and in those kinds of scenarios, all that matters is qualification,” the 30-year-old added.
Earlier this year, the draw for the second round of African qualifiers placed Sudan in Group I with Morocco, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. Agab hopes the current squad can reprise his country’s feat from the South Africa 2010 qualifiers when, alongside Mali, they progressed from their group to the final qualifying round.
"We have sufficient time to prepare, but our programme must match our ambitions. You have to prepare well for these qualifiers, and I believe that, if the circumstances are right, we’ll have a better chance of reaching the final round,” Agab continued.
"The Sudanese fans get behind us by coming to the stadium in their thousands. They always support us and believe in us, and we want to fulfil their ambitions. We need to win on home soil and obtain good results in our away games. This will boost our confidence to continue a campaign we expect to be very difficult, but we’re ready for the challenge."
Contrary to what you might think, Agab does not play centre-forward, but is instead normally deployed in midfield or out wide, which explains his modest goalscoring record with the national team.
However, the player loves attacking football and certainly does not lack self-belief when it comes to going for goal, as he illustrated with his varied hat-trick against Chad: the first displaying his shooting skills with a strike from outside the box; the second using quick reactions to intercept and convert a poor clearance from the goalkeeper; and the third by way of his poacher’s instinct to fire home a parried save from close range.
"Like any young player, I always wanted to play up front, as scoring goals brings you unrivalled joy. Goals help teams by rewarding their efforts and they make fans happy. Therefore, I always want to play as a striker or behind the strikers to be closer to the goal,” he explained.
Agab and his team-mates will be embarking on parallel journeys once football resumes. First, Sudan will resume their Group C qualifying campaign for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, in which Agab scored during the 4-1 defeat of Sao Tome and Principe. They will then embark on an even tougher task with the second-round group games en route to Qatar 2022.
With the name 'Agab' literally meaning ‘wonders’ in Arabic, it remains to be seen if he can live up to his name and inspire the Falcons of Jediane to achieve said feats in the months ahead.