“Miracle” semi-finalists Sudan defend a 2,550-day unbeaten African Nations Championship (CHAN) record when they tackle Nigeria in Morocco on Wednesday.
The east African country have played 10 matches spanning eight years in the biennial tournament for home-based footballers, winning six and drawing four.
However, finishing unbeaten as 2011 hosts failed to bring Sudan the title as they lost on penalties to Angola after a drawn semi-final.
None of the 29 other nations who have qualified for the CHAN can match the Sudanese record, which many pundits believe will end in central city Marrakech against the Nigerians.
Sudan have grinded their way to the last four on the back of a strong defence set to face its greatest challenge against the highly creative west Africans.
No team has carved open rearguards more regularly than the Nigerians and they will be hard to stop should the likes of Anthony Okpotu become more clinical inside the box.
Recently hired Sudan coach Zdravko Logarusic, a widely-travelled 55-year-old Croatian, told AFP that reaching the semi-finals was a “miracle”.
“We had only a couple of weeks to prepare and the expectation was that we would finish behind Morocco and Guinea and be eliminated after the first round.”
Sudan, who are 24 places below Nigeria in the FIFA Africa rankings, defeated Guinea and Mauritania and held hosts Morocco to finish second on goal difference.
“Unfortunately, our quarter-finals victory over Zambia has changed our status from no-hopers to title dark horses.
Expectations among Sudanese supporters have risen.
“The Nigeria match represents our greatest challenge because more is expected of us now. We are no longer flying under the radar.”
Logarusic will hope for another outstanding performance from goalkeeper Akram Elhadi, a vocal goalmouth organiser at set-piece time who has been beaten only once in 360 minutes.
Earlier Wednesday, two of the most successful CHAN 2018 sharpshooters will be in action when title favourites Morocco play former champions Libya in Casablanca.
Virtually unknown outside Morocco before the tournament kicked off in mid January, striker Ayoub el Kaabi is the leading scorer with six goals, including a hat-trick against Guinea.
Libyan Saleh Taher Saeid had a similar low-level profile in the continent until netting twice against Equatorial Guinea and once against Congo Brazzaville.
What Morocco will desperately want to avoid is a penalty shootout – Libya have been involved in four at CHAN tournaments and won them all.
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