Mauritania will make their maiden bow at the Africa Cup of nations Under-20 championship when the host country takes on fancied Cameroon in the opening game at the Olympic Stadium in Nouakchott on tonight.
The opening match of the twelve nation championship will be broadcast live on KBC channel 1 from 11PM,east African time.
Playing at home, The Mourabitounes will have all to prove against a Cameroon side that has been at the tournament 10 times, the second most for all the 12 teams participating in this year’s Championship.
Head coach Njoya Mauril will have his work cut out against the Central Africans and despite the gigantic task awaiting him, he will be banking on the breath of home air to cause an upset in the opening game.
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He has named a strong squad for the tournament that will include several foreign based players including winger El Mamy Tetah who plies his trade in Turkey with Alanyaspor as well as midfielder Adama Diop who plays in the French Division One with FC Cholet.
Mauritania did not have to go through qualification by virtue of being hosts but nonetheless played the WAFU-A qualifying tournament in Thies, Senegal as a platform for gauging themselves and their ability.
They played in the West Zone and finished off without winning any match in Group B, suffering losses against Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Mali, all with slim 1-0 margins.
Cameroon meanwhile come into the tournament as one of the favourites.
Head coach Ousmanou Christophe sees his side return to the tournament after failing to qualify for the 2019 edition.
The 1995 champions have not been at the podium since 2011 when they were losing finalists and have qualified only once since then.
They failed to qualify for the tournament in 2013 and 2015, returning in 2017 where they failed to get off the group stages, winning only one match against Sudan. They did not qualify in 2019 and return this year with hope of a better performance.
Pressure will be on coach Ousmanou to take the young Indomitable Lions back on top.
He has named a strong side for the tournament but the star attraction of the side will be Etienne Eto’o Pineda, the son of Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o.
The 18-year old plays for Spanish second division side Real Oviedo.
The young Eto’o will don the number 10 jersey for the Cameroonian side and hopes to make a positive impact to guide his team to success in Nouakchott.
Coach Christophe has blended a flair of homegrown and foreign talent into the squad as he looks to primarily see the team get off the group stages for the first time in 10 years.
In qualifying for the final tournament, Cameroon finished off as champions of the Central Africa football federations Unions, UNIFFAC , tournament played in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea last December. They finished top of Group B after beating Congo Brazzaville 3-1 and drawing 1-1 with DR Congo, assuring themselves of qualification.
They went on to the final against Central Africa Republic who topped Group A, thrashing them 3-0 to win the title.
Cameroon had a training camp in Morocco to prepare for the tournament where they played several friendly matches.
They beat Central Africa Republic 3-0, Burkina Faso 1-0 and lost by the same margin to Gambia.