Journey to Morocco 2015 begins

The race for places at the Orange Africa Cup of Nations Morocco 2015 commences when Mauritania and Mauritius square off in Nouakchott in the sole preliminary round eliminator on Saturday, 12 April 2014 – exactly 280 days to the opening match.

For a round initially involving four teams, the preliminary elimination phase is down to the battles of Nouakchott and the return in Curepipe following the withdrawal of Eritrea who were scheduled to face South Sudan.

After the first leg on Saturday in Nouakchott, the return match takes place eight days later on the Indian Ocean island nation.

Both Mauritius and Mauritania have never appeared at the flagship continental football event since its inception in 1957. But both are keen on re-writing their own piece of history with a place at the 30th edition.

On the wheels of their participation at the 2014 Orange African Nations Championship (Chan) in South Africa last February, their first ever appearance at a major continental club championship, the new look Mauritania are eyeing the bigger picture despite a win-less outing at the Chan.

Frenchman Patrice Neveu is taking no chances at all, extending an invitation to 14 foreign-based stars, dominated by players from the French lower division to blend with 11 local members for the crucial test. The bad news however for ‘Les Mourabitones’ is the unavailability of striker Dominique Da Silva of Egyptian giants, Zamalek due to some administrative challenges.

Neveu, who appeared at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in charge of the Syli Nationale of Guinea, is looking forward to climb to the top with Mauritania too.

Like Mauritania, Mauritius has been living in the shadows of the big guns of African football after countless unsuccessful attempts to have a feel of the most sought after platform in African football.

‘Les Dodos’ as they are nicknamed have been preparing on the quiet for the trip to Nouakchott with an entirely local-based players squad named by head coach Akbar Patel for the game.

Patel is hoping his charges will come out unscathed to make the return leg the decider for a place at the next round.

The winner will advance to the first round to join the 13 teams for the seven places for the group phase of the qualifiers. The draw for the group and final phase of qualifiers will be done at CAF headquarters on 27 April.

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