Coach says Sudan now have necessary African experience

Sudan coach Mohammed Abdallah
Sudan coach Mohammed Abdallah is using the Cecafa Cup to prepare his side for next month's Nations Cup ties against Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Angola

Sudan coach Mohammed Abdallah says his team will not go to next month's Africa Cup of Nations finals as underdogs.

The Sudanese will be contesting their second finals in four years.

"At least now we have experience of playing in the finals. Last time in 2008, it was more than 32 years since Sudan had appeared in the finals.

"But I now have experience on how to prepare my team for the finals - and it will be different," he told BBC Sport.

Sudan suffered elimination in the very first round of Ghana 2008, ending the tournament without a point or a goal to their name.

The team is currently playing in the Cecafa tournament in Tanzania but the coach says he has an extensive programme that goes beyond the regional tournament.

This includes friendlies against Tunisia, Libya and Senegal - with the matches following the Cecafa Cup, where Sudan reached the semi-finals on Monday.

"Our team has been divided into two," says the man popularly known as 'Mazda'. "I came with new players - especially from our U23 Olympic team - and a number of senior players.

"We have another team playing in Arab competition in Doha next week [but] we hope that this tournament will give our new players a good experience," he added.

Abdallah says he will combine players from the Cecafa team with those from the side that take part in the Doha tournament when he selects his Nations Cup squad.

In Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, the Nile Crocodiles will take on co-favourites Ivory Coast as well as Burkina Faso and Angola in Group B.

Making their eighth appearance at the finals, Sudan have won the title once - on home soil back in 1970.

But after their appearance in the 1976 finals, the Sudanese were absent from African football's premier event for over three decades.

Abdallah, 56, is revered for steering his country to two of the last three Nations Cups, with his side qualifying in October as one of the best runners-up.

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