Alain Giresse was a subtle footballer in his glory days as part of one of France's greatest midfields and he is also proving to be a master of understatement as a coach. Rather than basking in the glory of his team's unexpected triumph at the start of the final phase of Africa's qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa finals, the Gabon coach has been a measure of calm and quiet in the wake of surprise 2-1 win over Morocco in Casablanca.
The Group A victory is arguably the biggest-ever for the central African country, who were regarded as little more than also-rans in the qualifying race. But even with Cameroon, Morocco and Togo in their group, Gabon top the standings after the first weekend of matches and will go into their next game in June brimming with confidence.
"For us it was a perfect performance," Giresse told radio reporters after the win in Casablanca. "To take on a team at the level of Morocco and beat them was great. On paper, we might not have been given a chance, but our side has improved and on the pitch we proved that even without experience, this young side is a very good team.
"It was an encouraging test. Three points away from home in a group where each point is going to be vital is enormous for us. It has given us great encouragement to continue this campaign with some vigour."
Gabon were one of only two teams to record away wins in the ten African qualifiers played at the weekend. The other was Tunisia, whose Portuguese coach Humberto Coelho was also full of praise for his charges after a 2-1 triumph in Nairobi in their Group B game against Kenya.
"We adapted well to our opponent's game, we used the ball and played intelligently. I want to say ‘bravo' to my players because what they achieved was not easy."
Points gained away from home are going to be vital in the competition and there were also away successes of sorts for Algeria, Mali, Nigeria and Zambia. The quartet all managed away draws although both Algeria and Nigeria had arguably hoped for more in their respective matches.
Nigeria coach Shaibu Amodu has blamed poor marksmanship in front of goal and a slow start to the game for the Super Eagles failure to win in Maputo. Before the match, the Mambas would surely have settled for a draw with their illustrious opponents, but after two disallowed goals and a myriad of chances, the Mozambique coach Mart Nooij was also disappointed.
"We dominated from beginning to end. We didn't earn a draw, we lost two points. But the game showed again we have the quality to play with the best teams in Africa. We should have better luck in our next matches," said the Dutchman.
"Egypt are the best team in Africa and we had nothing to lose. My players were determined to win but they managed a draw which is good," said the inexperienced Frenchman.
For the weekend losers, there was reflection and immediate desire to pick up their form for the next round of qualifiers in June.
"It was disappointing because we didn't deserve to lose," said Cameroon's veteran fullback Geremi after a 1-0 loss to Togo in Group A. "We have five games left and we have to do everything to win those five."