Mauritania secure historic qualification
© AFP

Minnows Mauritania reached the finals of an African football tournament for the first time at the weekend.

A country traditionally among the whipping boys of the continent defeated Senegal 2-0 to secure a place at the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN). South Africa hosts the 16-team tournament for home-based stars between 11 January and 1 February in Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Polokwane.

Mauritania become the fifth qualifiers after Ghana, Libya, Morocco and automatic participants South Africa. Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Dakar, the Mauritanians drew level on aggregate in first-half stoppage time through Moulaye 'Bessam' Ahmed.

And 20,000 spectators at the national stadium in capital Nouakchott were celebrating again just past the hour mark when Taghyoullah Denne scored. Nicknamed the Mourabitounes after an ancient dynasty that ruled the country, Mauritania were ranked 44 of 54 African football nations in July.

They defeated Liberia 2-1 at home and 1-0 away in a preliminary tie before tackling Senegal, who qualified for the first two editions of the CHAN. Another seven finals places are up for grabs next weekend with Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Congo, Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia favoured to fill them.