It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the shock that occurred in Africa earlier this month when the Central African Republic knocked Egypt out of CAF Africa Cup of Nations qualifying. Not only have Les Fauves de Bas-Oubangui (the Wild Beasts of the Lower Ubangi) never come close to reaching a continental finals, while the Pharaohs have won the event seven times, but the country of five million was ranked as low as 202 in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking less than two years ago.
Playing the first leg away in Alexandria, the Central African Republic pulled off a major upset by twice coming from behind to win 3-2, and though the Pharaohs were still confident of overturning the deficit in Bangui, Foxi Kethevoama's first-half strike at the packed-to-capacity Barthelemy Boganda Sports Complex settled the tie. The unexpected victory allowed the Beasts to advance into the last round of qualifying where they will again be underdogs against Burkina Faso.
Kethevoama, the goalscoring hero who also bagged a brace against Botswana in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ preliminaries in June - the team's first-ever win in World Cup qualifying - plays his club football for FC Astana in Kazakhstan, where he is on loan from Hungarian club Kecskemeti TE. The 26-year-old striker moved to Hungary in 2006 after being discovered playing for FC 105 in Gabon by a director of Diosgyori. He later moved to Ujpest before joining Kecskemeti, scoring three goals in the 2011 Hungarian Cup final, which gave his club a first-ever cup victory. He spoke exclusively to FIFA.com about the history-making victory and more.
FIFA.com: To what do you credit the team’s success against Egypt?
Foxi Kethevoama: Our main strength is our solidarity. Everyone fights for each other in this team. We wanted to achieve something great against Egypt. We were disappointed when we were eliminated from the last competition, so we were determined to do the maximum to make it in 2013. We are on the right track.
Egypt had to play their home game in an empty stadium. Did that make it easier for you?
It was an advantage for us. The crowd would have been very hostile. So there was no negative pressure on us, and no positive pressure on the Egyptians.
Feeling the love of the people, their support for the national team helps us a lot.
You gave three assists in the 3-2 victory in Egypt and then scored at home. What happened with the goal?
I saw Romaric Lignanzi was going to cross without controlling the ball. So I anticipated, and that is why I was on the ball before the defender.
How important was the support in Bangui from your home fans?
Feeling the love of the people, their support for the national team helps us a lot. They give us a big boost, during the week when we train, and during the games. You can only give the best and work your guts out when you feel such strong support.
You are facing Burkina Faso for a place in South Africa at the finals. What are your chances?
Burkina Faso are still the favourites. It will be very difficult. We have to focus on those two games from now on. If our concentration is not at the maximum, we will have a hard time. Eliminating Egypt should not make us euphoric or too exhilarated. We have to remain humble. Never underestimating an opponent is one of our rules.
Has the coaching change from Jules Accorsi to Herve Loungoundji made a difference?
It did not affect us. We know Mr Accorsi could not reach an agreement with the authorities for the moment, but he still has an eye on the team. He loves us and often calls us. He is in contact with Loungoundji, who was his assistant. So little changed.
More and more of the national team players play in Europe. Do you have a lot of contact with each other?
We are really closely knit. We call or Skype each other any time of the day. We are all in constant contact.
You were close to joining FC Metz before signing for Astana.
Yes, I intend to play in France one day. My wife and child live in France, so for my family life, it would be more convenient to find a club there.
What is it like playing in Kazakhstan?
I have been playing in Astana since February. We are playing for the national title, which is something new for me. It is an amazing town, with lots of big new buildings, very different from Africa. Once the season is over [in November], I will think of my future. They want to keep me on a permanent basis, but I asked them to wait.
You have been compared by some fans with Zinedine Zidane.
Of course, I am flattered and proud by those compliments. I used to pass more than I scored, but it is starting to change. The more I can do for my team, the happier I am.