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African Cup Of Nations

Wild celebrations across Mauritania after historic AFCON victory and qualification

The streets of Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania, exploded in joyful celebration on Tuesday night after the country’s senior men’s national team pulled off a shocking 1-0 victory over two-time champions Algeria at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, and earned a historic Round of 16 qualification. The win is Mauritania’s first in the history of the AFCON and this is their third appearance in the African football showpiece after 2019 and 2021.

A 37th minute goal in Bouake by captain Mohamed Delllah Yaly helped the Group D outsiders grab one of four places reserved for third-placed finishers and condemned Algeria, champions in 1990 and 2019, to bottom place in the group stage for a second consecutive tournament. Algeria, who were among the favourites for the title in Abidjan, have not won any AFCON match since the 2019 final.

HEROIC SAVES

In a tournament that has so far produced significant upsets, Mauritania’s victory ranks among the top. Goalkeeper Babacar Niasse was named the Man of the Match after his heroic saves kept the Lions of Chinguetti in the game after they took the lead in the first half.

“I am very proud to have this trophy, I think this is collective for us, this for all of us even though I have the trophy but it is for all of us because we prepared this together.

“I was extremely proud also, I will like to thank Mauritania for giving me this opportunity, I am very proud to represent my country,” he said.

LEADERS CELEBRATE

Across all nine provinces of Nouakchott, the streets were filled with cars displaying Mauritanian flags and photos of players, while the sidewalks witnessed marches, mostly of young people, celebrating this victory and qualification. A number of political leaders took part in the celebration including the leader of the ruling El Insaf party, Mohamed Maa El-Ainein Ould Ayeh, as well as a number of party leaders and members of the government.

President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani tweeted on his “X” (formerly Twitter) account, congratulating the team and describing their victory and qualification as a result of a magnificent performance, team effort and great patriotic spirit.

A GIANT-SLAYING COACH

Mauritania coach Amir Abdou said: “It is extraordinary what we are feeling and what we are going through. I told my players to not leave anything out, to believe until the final whistle and we saw all the scenarios we had in those conversations and we had seen other teams and we have been able to win against this Algerian team.

“Individually and as a team, we showed lot of determination for this qualification, so, we will start from here. It is a very difficult win. You find yourself in a country where you don’t know a lot of people where you had this result and people are going to hit you in the middle.

“The players had a historic game. I told them today that they need to write their names in the history books of Mauritanian football and they have done that.”
The Marseille-born 51-year-old Abdou is not new to “giant slaying”. At the last Africa Cup of Nations in 2021, he led minnows Comoros to stage one of the biggest coups in the history of the tournament by beating Ghana 3-2 and sending them home in the group stage. The win helped Comoros reach the knockout stages as one of the best-ranked third-placed teams.

After spending a memorable eight years with Comoros Islands, Abdou resigned in February 2022 and joined Mauritania the following month. He has now reached the last 16 of the AFCON twice in a row with different countries.

Credit: AIPS Media 

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