FIFA World Cup™ debutants South Sudan have drawn 1-1 at home to Mauritania in the first leg of an African Zone qualifier that took 19 hours to complete.
Torrential rain forced play to be suspended Wednesday in Juba with the score 1-1 after 10 minutes, and the match was later abandoned for the day. Play resumed at 11.00 local time (09.00 GMT) today and the remaining 80 minutes did not produce any more goals, leaving Mauritania favourites to progress after the 13 October second leg.
That result raised South Sudanese hopes that they could defeat Mauritania, who are 55 places higher in the world rankings and beat South Africa in the Cup of Nations during September.
Football is seen as a unifying factor in an East African country plagued by political power struggles since achieving independence from Sudan four years ago. A peace deal was signed last month, ending a conflict that spilt into civil war two years ago in the oil-rich state.
"The national team is a great example of unity," boasted South Sudan captain Richard Justin Lado before facing Mauritania. "Players come from every ethnic group, from all over the country, and we play in harmony," added the veteran Sudan-born midfielder whose parents are South Sudanese. Now that the war is over, we have to make the most of what is happening."
Korea Republic's Lee Sungjea coaches a 'Bright Stars' squad composed of locals and professionals based in Sudan and Ethiopia.