Les Mourabitounes of Mauritania are set to make their bow at the Africa Cup of Nations when they face Mali in their Group E Day opening day clash on Monday in Suez.
Mauritania are first timers just as Burundi and Madagascar, and will be hoping to leave a mark in their first ever game in the history of the Africa Cup of Nations.
However, they face a mountain in Les Aigles who have a rich pedigree in the competition and making their 11th appearance at the biennial championship. Their best outing was winning silver in 1972 and their bronze medal finish at the 2012 and 2013 editions.
Mali, making a seventh appearance in a row since 2008, are favourites but Mauritania is capable of making them laugh at the wrong side of their lips if they underrate them. Head Coach Mohamed Magassouba is upbeat about his team’s chances in a group that includes Angola and Tunisia.
“We have prepared a strong team for the Africa Cup of Nations that can challenge any team,” Magassouba told the media at the press briefing on the eve of the match.
After an impressive season with Portuguese giants, FC Porto, Abdoulaye Diaby is hoping to continue with his fine with Les Aigles in Egypt.
“I feel great. I see all the teams are at similar levels, that’s why every game won’t be easy. We are ready to face any team,” said Diaby, who admits that talent alone won’t be enough to aid their chances of going farthest.
For Les Mourabitounes, they emerged one of the surprise packets in the qualifiers and are keen to their critics that their presence in Egypt is no fluke. Frenchman Corentin Martins has done enough work and believes they are ready to make their bow, and has poured cold water on the effects of the searing temperatures in Egypt.
“There’s no problem with the weather, it is same as in Mauritania. We have an ambition we want to achieve regardless of the opponent. Mali is a strong team at this stage, but we’ll try to make the Mauritanian people happy,” Martins said.
Meanwhile, Angola and Tunisia will face off in the other Group E match earlier at the same venue.