Mauritania appears to be the rising star in Africa. After clinching a historic qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (2019 AFCON), the Lions of Chinguetti were designated as Team of the Year at the CAF awards on Tuesday in Dakar, Senegal.
The man behind the wonderful job is Corentin Martins, a former attacking midfielder for France national team, who came on board in 2014. He told ACLsports that the CAF recognition is a recompense for the ‘huge work’ done so far and would inspire the team for the June / July continental tournament.
“We are very happy to be named the best team in Africa in 2018. Few years back nobody would imagine this happening. I think it’s the result of the huge work and the vision we had,” he said.
“Mauritania will surprise many on the continent. It is going to be a big team capable of upsetting the known names. It not only shows how we have progressed over time but also how football is developing in Africa.”
With a game to spare in the qualifiers, Mauritania booked their place after topping Group I with 12 points, winning four of the five games played and losing one to none other but Angola, who lost the reserve fixture to Mauritania as well.
“Our group was not easy. We had Angola, who are a very strong team and 2013 AFCON finalists Burkina Faso. Both teams were tipped as favourites initially. Nobody considered us and Botswana. But I was sure of possibilities,” the 49-year-old former Brest player said.
With a ticket to Egypt 2019 in hand, attention is shifting to the tournament properly, according to the coach. However, he believes it is going to be a continuation of the learning and building process.
“We are not going to Egypt to win the cup, but I believe we’d not be humiliated. We are going to get the necessary exposure which helped the top teams we know today to become great.”