By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
After helping Mauritania to their debut African Cup of Nations, AFCON, in Egypt, Mauritania coach, Martins is optimistic that the team can still have another fairy tale run by qualifying for the next FIFA World Cup.
Corentin Martins has been at the helm of the Mauritanian national team since 2014. And while six years in charge of an African national team is something of a rarity, the country’s decision to stick with the Frenchman is now paying off thanks to his realistic long-term goals.
In an interview with the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA Media, former France, and Auxerre midfielder said: “After I left the French club Brest I was looking for a new project. That’s when I was offered the Mauritania job. 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.”
Martins has revolutionized Mauritanian football by helping local players improve enough to play overseas and then return to represent their country as professionals.
Speaking about this process, Martins said: “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.”
No-one would dispute that Mauritania can produce technically gifted players, but they have sometimes being hindered by a lack of self-belief. “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 instill confidence in the players, who have great potential, and help them overcome the fear they had when facing opponents,” Martins said.
“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,” he added.
Group B of CAF World Cup Qualifiers comprises of Mauritania alongside Tunisia, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. Martins said that impossible is possible as no one expected them to qualify for the last AFCON, as they will try to qualify for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup. He said that Group B will be a tight one with favourite Tunisia expected to qualify, but 2012 African Champions, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea will also be tough teams to play within the group.
Three debutants from Africa qualified for Germany 2006 FIFA World Cup from Africa. Angola, Togo, and Ghana qualified for their maiden World Cup at the expense of Nigeria and Cameroon in 2006. Can Mauritania and other countries yet to make World Cup appearance shock the world by qualifying for Qatar 2022? Time will tell.
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