Mauritania might not have qualified for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ghana this January but their admirable performances in the preliminary rounds handed the arid Saharan nation a major lift.
The country's national team, Les Mourabitounes, finished second in the qualifying group behind holders Egypt and kept up an unbeaten home record in the competition. It is the best finish for the country in the Nations Cup qualifiers to date and sees them progress steadily up the FIFA/Coca-Cola world ranking.
A 2-1 home win over Burundi in their final qualifier in October ensured a rise of 16 places for Mauritania, up to 124th in the global standings. It is still a ways off their all-time high of 85th, achieved almost 12 years ago, but reflects some significant improvements of late.
The Burindi win came despite the appointment of a new coach. Birama Gueye took over from the well-traveled Algerian Ali Fergani in charge of Les Mourabitounes and made a winning start in his new assignment. He now turns his focus to regional competition.
Mauritania will participate in the upcoming Amilcar Cabral Cup, a tournament for teams in the far west of Africa which is being hosted by Guinea Bissau. Mauritania will play in the opening game against the host nation on 30 November.
Gueye is unlikely to be able to call upon all his resources for the competition as many of the country's growing contingent of foreign-based players will be unavailable due to club commitments.
The country continues to use the French-born footballers, first brought to the team by coach Noel Tosi when he was in charge at the start of the 2006 FIFA World Cup preliminaries.
The standout pairing of Yohann Langlet and Pascal Gourville were handed Mauritanian nationality last year. Langlet has gone onto to become a frequent scorer for the national team and signed recently with Al Ittihad of Libya, helping them to reach the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League.
Moises Kande plays at AEL in Cyprus while Seydou Mbodji and Abdelaziz Kamara are based in France. The 23-year-old Kamara was born in St. Denis of Mauritanian parents and has already played top flight French football with St. Etienne before moving to Chateauroux. The Sidibe brothers, Ahmed and Bilal, also compete in the lower leagues in France. Youthful Dominque da Silva is on the books of Tunisia's CS Sfaxien.
Mauritania's focus now turns to the South Africa 2010 qualifiers and the draw for the preliminaries in Durban on 25 November.
The side will be placed in the group phase, where they will no longer be regarded as whipping boys by their opponents. Indeed, Les Mourabitounes now have a well-founded reputation for being tricky and difficult to overcome.
They have only previously competed in eight FIFA World Cup qualifying matches and won only one of those. Their first participation was for the 1978 finals in Argentina.
Calculation of points for a single match
P = M x I x T x C
M: points for Match result
Teams gain 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a defeat. In a penalty shoot-out, the winning team gains 2 points and the losing team gains 1 point.
I: Importance of match
Friendly match (including small competitions): I = 1.0
FIFA World Cup™ qualifier or confederation-level qualifier: I = 2.5
Confederation-level final competition or FIFA Confederations Cup: I = 3.0
FIFA World Cup™ final competition: I = 4.0
T: strength of opposing Team
The strength of the opponents is based on the formula: 200 – the ranking position of the opponents.As an exception to this formula, the team at the top of the ranking is always assigned the value 200 and the teams ranked 150th and below are assigned a minimum value of 50. The ranking position is taken from the opponents’ ranking in the most recently published FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.
C: strength of Confederation
When calculating matches between teams from different confederations, the mean value of the confederations to which the two competing teams belong is used. The strength of a confederation is calculated on the basis of the number of victories by that confederation at the last three FIFA World Cup™ competitions (see following page). Their values are as follows:
|Points Last Month|
|Points outside Ranking calculation|