All eyes on Mauritania if they will continue making history at Côte d’Ivoire 2023

* In 2019, they qualified for their first AFCON and went on to qualify back-to-back in 2021

* In 2023, they qualified for their third AFCON and went on to win their first AFCON game — beating almighty Algeria

Maravi Express

After two unlucky losses, Mauritania stunned two-time champions Algeria to finish third and squeeze through to the last 16 as best runners-up and are geared for their first-ever knockout stage against Cape Verde on Monday.


The Côte d’Ivoire 2023 is their third AFCON having first qualified in 2019 and went on to qualify back-to-back in 2021 and their win against Algeria is their first at the continental showpiece.

In 18 years — between 1995-2003, they never won a single football match and in 2010, they withdrew from AFCON qualifiers due to financial crisis. 

By 2011, they were ranked 207 by FIFA and when Ahmed Yahya was voted as FA President in 2011, he restructured the league by setting up youth teams as well as securing the country’s biggest league sponsorship from Telcom.

Mauritania goalkeeper, Babacar Niasse Man of the Match in win against Algeria

Player salaries were revised and with the incentive they won their first away game in history, beating Liberia in 2014.

Using 10m euro from FIFA Goal Project funds, Yahya renovated their national stadium and built an ultra modern headquarters and a training complex with hotel rooms and TV/Radio studio. 

He camped U-15 team in the complex and started a youth development program and to help the youth teams compete, Yahya have been hosting Barcelona and PSG academies in regular friendly games. 

The AFCON 2021 qualification squad included some of the youth players who were developed from 2015.

On his tour of Africa, FIFA president Gianni Infantino praised Mauritania as one of the few African countries with proper accountability of the FIFA funds.

For their match on Monday, Mauritania need to avoid conceding free kicks in their half as Cape Verde’s Bebe scored from a 40-metre set-piece against Mozambique and drawing against seven times champions, Egypt suggests they will not be pushovers.


Meanwhile, this is also the first time that Senegal has achievement a 100% result in the group stage of the competition and the Lions of Teranga did this with 8 goals scored against 1 conceded.

It is the second consecutive CAF AFCON that Algeria is eliminated in the group stage and without any victory as in 2021, the Fennecs collected 1 point and in 2023, two points.

Three goals were scored from penalties between Mozambique (1) and Ghana (2) — highest total in a single AFCON match while Equatorial Guinea’s Emilio Nsue finished the group stage with 5 goals.

He is the second player to achieve such a performance at this stage of the competition since the Ivorian legend, Laurent Pokou — 7 goals in 1970.

The longest in the history of the tournament to reach the knockout stage in each of their last 15 appearances of the competition has been achieved by Nigeria

Côte d’Ivoire’s 0-4 loss to Equatorial Guinea is their biggest defeat — the Elephants had never lost an AFCON match by a margin of 4 goals before.

Five coaches left their post at the end of the group stages — Tom Saintfiet (The Gambia), Chris Hughton (Ghana), Jalel Kadri (Tunisia), Djamel Belmadi (Algeria) and Jean-Louis Gasset (Côte d’Ivoire)

Three matches finished 0-0 in the final round of group matches — Namibia vs Mali, Tanzania vs DR Congo and Tunisia vs South Africa while 24 goals were scored, fewer than during the first day of the group stage (38).—Info from Sports Obama & CAFonline