On the 11th of January, Sudan will begin their sojourn in the African Cup of Nations when they square off against the Djurtus of Guinea-Bissau.
After that, they will trade tackles against the Super Eagles of Nigeria before playing their last group stage game against Egypt.
After a nine-year hiatus, Sudan qualified for the African showpiece after shocking South Africa with a 2-0 victory in Khartoum to seal the second spot behind the Black Stars of Ghana.
Going into the AFCON, Sudan are one of the lowest-ranked teams at 125th in the world and 33rd in Africa. Of the 24 teams, they are ranked 5th from the bottom.
However, despite their poor rankings, under coach Burhan Tia, they will hope to recreate memories of the 1970 AFCON, which they hosted and won.
Nevertheless, Sudan reaching the finals will be nothing short of miraculous. The Falcons of Jediane, as they are called, have been terrible in their last eleven games.
They were humiliated out of the Arab Cup after 4-0 and 5-0 losses to Algeria and Egypt. They also lost 1-0 to 95th ranked Lebanon.
Coach Tia selected 36 players for the AFCON, albeit he would have to drop eight, while five others would be on standby.
Tia’s team is primarily made up of home-based players, most of whom play for the two biggest teams in Sudan- Al Hilal Omdurman and Al Merreikh Omdurman.
In fact, the only player that is not based in Sudan is Athar Attahir, who is a defender for Egyptian side, Smouha.
The rest of the squad members are Ali Abu Ashreen, Ishag Adam, Wali Al-Din Khidr, Abdul Razzaq Yaqoub, Juma Abbas, Muhammad Abdul Rahman, Akram Al-Hadi, Salah Nimr, Imad Al-Sinni, Mustafa Karshoum, Muhammad Al-Rashid, Al-Jazouli Noah, Dia Al-Din Mahjoub, Muhammad Abdullah Hussein, Mazen Muhammedin, Sheikh Muhammad, Muhammad Kasri, Suleiman Zakaria, Ahmad Al-Fateh, Sharif Omar, Muhammad Hassoun, Awad Zayed, Ali Muhammad Nour, Mutawakkil Adam Suleiman, Musab Al-Sharif, Muhammad Al-Mundhir, Al-Sadiq Hassan Musa, Amjad Ismail, Mojtaba Al-Murdi, Mustafa Ahmed, Muhammad Al-Hajj, Captain Bashir, Muayyad Aydin, Suleiman Hamid.
Deduction from squad selection.
As most of the players play with or against each other frequently, it is expected that the team would be pretty compact and have a good understanding of how to play with each other.
Also, most members of the team have been training together since November last year as they were in camp before the Arab Cup, which started in November.
So even with the lack of European stars, because of the time they have spent together, the Falcons of Jediane could still pose a threat if they can function properly as a unit.
Style of play
Because of their underdog status, the Sudan team will likely set up a low block to deal with some of the quality attackers they will face in Salah, Ejuke, Iheanacho.
Sudan coach Tia’s favourite formation is the 4-3-3. However, Tia’s team are not afraid of going forward whenever the opportunity presents itself. In the qualifiers, they scored all the teams they faced.
So the Super Eagles will have to be careful with their defending. While they might boss possession, defensive mistakes like the one which gifted the Central African republic a 1-0 victory in the World Cup qualifiers could be costly.
Players to watch
Mohamed Abdelrahman: The Al Hilal forward was one of the best players in the qualifiers for Sudan. He scored two goals in the final two games, including one against South Africa.
The 28-year-old is pacy and is never shy to take on defenders. He is also deadly in front of goal, and he has scored 13 goals in 20 appearances for the Falcons of Jediane.
Saifeldin Bakhit: The 28-year-old forward is also one of the players that would look to set the AFCON on fire. The Pharco striker is also one of Tia’s go-to men, he scored two goals in the qualifiers, and he has five goals for the Sudanese team.
The Sudanese side could use his height for aerial balls, as he is just over six feet.
Amier Kamal: The 36-year-old is one of the most capped Sudanese players. Even at his age, the Al Merreikh defender is one of the best in Sudan. He has 69 caps and has scored two goals, and he would be the go-to man in defence.
The Sudan side have spent a long time camped together. However, whilst the players may be familiar with each other, they might not be familiar with their coach. Burhan Tia just got the Sudan job in early December. He succeeded former gaffer Hubert Velud after the latter had a poor performance at the Arab Cup.
However, that decision could hurt the Falcons of Jediane, as Velud had been the coach for about nine years, but even by the kick-off of AFCON, Tia would have barely spent a month on the job. Because of this, they could struggle.
Also, before his Sudan appointment, Tia had no experience coaching on the international stage. He had never coached a national team. Since he took over at Sudan, he hasn’t won in two games. He lost 3-2 to 137-ranked Ethiopia and had a scoreless draw against Zimbabwe.