Friday May 15, 2020. 11:00
Mauritania head coach Corentin Martins has revealed that taking the team to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations was the proudest moment of his managerial career.
Al Murabitun secured qualification for the AFCON for the first time in late 2018 thanks to a home victory over Botswana.
“That month will forever remain engraved in our memories. What we experienced that day was incredible and the most beautiful moment of my career,” Martins told FIFA.
“The sheer joy among the players and staff as well as the delirium of the fans and elderly in the stands made us feel proud of what we’d achieved.”
The Frenchman has been in charge of Mauritania since 2014 and has gradually improved the standard of the team to a point that they can now no longer be considered minnows on the African football scene.
“The first thing I noticed was how skilled the players were. I watched the local league games and was impressed by the talent I saw,” said Martins.
“Since Mauritania didn’t have players in France or other European countries, I assembled a squad consisting mostly of local guys along with seven others based overseas. Now, it’s the opposite. I have 16 overseas players and six from the domestic league, which shows how much many of them have progressed.”
He continued, “When I started this job, I knew the team hadn’t been getting good results, so we adopted a gradual approach, taking things one match at a time. We needed to instil confidence in the players, who have great potential, and help them overcome the fear they had when facing opponents.
“Thanks to some good results and victories, the players began to exhibit more confidence. Six years ago, you could see the fear in their eyes before games, but they have managed to overcome those anxieties. These days, things are markedly different and they take to the field determined to win.”
The next major goal for Mauritania is to compete strongly for a place at the 2022 World Cup. They find themselves in a tough qualification group alongside Tunisia, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea.
“We know Tunisia very well, and they’re a tough team to play against. They have quality players and they participated in the most recent World Cup. Equatorial Guinea are like us and will be hoping to cause an upset. Zambia are a good team and have had some really good results. They’ve even won an African title. It’s going to be a tough task, but we believe in our chances and we’ll continue do so until the end.”
He added, “Despite how balanced the group is, we have to accept that Tunisia are favourites to qualify, but we’ll see how the other games unfold. We’ve played Tunisia at least five times in the last five years, the most recent of which was at the Africa Cup of Nations. For our part, we’ll prepare well and hopefully get to experience another unique moment.”