· Mbacke Ndiaye made his international debut on Friday
· Shot-stopper’s heroic performance against UAE earned him man of the match award
· Luck played a part in him starting the game
Friday, 3 December 2021 is a day that will live long in the memory of Mauritania goalkeeper Mbacke Ndiaye.
Making his debut for his country at the age of 26, he turned in an outstanding performance to win the man of the match award against United Arab Emirates. Sadly for him, his efforts were not enough to prevent Al-Murabitun from slipping to a 1-0 defeat in their second game at the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021™.
Having gone into the tournament as Mauritania’s third-choice keeper, Ndiaye needed a little luck to force his way into the starting XI. He was on the bench for his side’s opening match against Tunisia, looking on as the first-choice Babacar Diop suffered an injury only 21 minutes into the first half and was replaced by Namori Diaw.
So when Ndiaye was told on the eve of the UAE game that he would be making his international debut, it took him by a surprise: “I was in the hotel room with Dellah Yaly when the coach told me that Babacar wouldn’t be able to play.
“Although I was happy to be starting the game, I was upset about Babacar’s injury because he’s like a brother to me. It pushed me to do my best thanks to the advice I received, but unfortunately we didn’t get a result.”
Mauritania shipped five goals in their opening match and Ndiaye was determined to avoid a repeat. Standing firm in the face of UAE’s non-stop attacking, he pulled off two fine stops in the closing minutes of the first half, blocking Ali Saleh’s shot and then denying Mohamed Almenhali to keep the game goalless at half-time.
“I played well tactically, especially my positioning, and I did all I could to help my team get a result,” the keeper told FIFA.com.
“This was my first match with the national team and I had to show my abilities and defend my country’s colours,” he added. “I’m a goalkeeper and I have to direct my team-mates and motivate them to win.”
Ndiaye’s enthusiasm was clear for all to see, not least in the 69th minute when UAE’s Ali Saleh scored a wonder goal only for it to be ruled out by VAR. When the decision came through, Ndiaye dropped on his knees in relief. “When that goal was disallowed, I thanked God, but unfortunately they managed to score at the last minutes of the game,” he explained.
“The match was like a final for us and we needed to win or at least get a draw,” he continued. “We created some chances, but we just couldn’t score.”
Despite back-to-back defeats and Mauritania’s slim chances of advancing from Group B, the tall shot-stopper is refusing to give up, pointing out that Al-Murabitun will go into their game against Syria on Monday with only one objective in mind: victory.
“We didn’t play well in the first game; it was a day to forget,” Ndiaye explained. “This is football, though, and sometimes it’s not your day. Today we held our heads high. We put in a great performance and gave everything we could to win or at least get a point. We couldn’t stop them scoring that late goal, though. We’ll be doing all we can in our third match to get a result and make the Mauritanian people happy.”
Regardless of what happens next, Ndiaye will always have an international debut and the praise that came with it to remember.