Corentin Martins: Libya coach admits pressure is high for Afcon qualifiers

Corentin Martins led Mauritania to their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations final in 2019

Libya coach Corentin Martins has admitted there is pressure on him to impress in his new role.

The Frenchman’s first challenge with the North Africans will be the opening matches of Group J of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Libya receives Botswana in Benghazi on Wednesday and travels to Equatorial Guinea five days later.

Martins, 52, made his name as a coach in Africa during a six-year stint with Mauritania, which he took from the other candidates to a first-ever Nations Cup final in 2019.

“I had more time at the start of my job in Mauritania where we had one or two friendlies, a sort of internship, before qualifying started,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“Also with Mauritania I first signed a two-year contract and the Nations Cup qualifiers were spread over two years, so it was easier to start my work.

“But with Libya we have less than a year to complete the qualifiers and I only have a one-year contract with the federation. This means it’s all a lot faster than I’m used to.”

Martins was given time at Mauritania despite not being immediately successful, but the former France international is aware that a slow start in the Libyan job could put him under pressure.

“It is true that there is not the same patience here,” he explained.

“With Mauritania, in my first two-year contract, we did not qualify for the Nations Cup, but the president (of the football association) decided to continue with me.

“I also wanted to stay because there was still work to be done to make progress and then we qualified.

“But we all know what the coaching job requires. You need results. So I get it.

“I agreed to sign for a year and we’ll see if we get results or not. It’s up to me to do the work and then try to get the players to progress quickly.”

Martins sees Libyan potential

Libyan side versus Sudan at the FIFA Arab Cup in June 2021
Libya were defeated in last year’s FIFA Arab Cup qualifiers, finishing third in their World Cup qualifier group

Former Auxerre, Deportivo La Coruna and Strasbourg midfielder Martins was in charge as Mauritania qualified for the 2021 Nations Cup final, but had left the role by the time the Covid-delayed tournament was finally hosted in Cameroon.

Libya named him coach in April to replace Spanish veteran Javier Clemente, and Martins sees it as a great opportunity.

“It is a very motivating project as it has been ten years since Libya last qualified for the Nations Cup final,” he said.

“I think they have some really good players with a lot of potential.”

It’s a point backed by two Libyan clubs who achieved relative success in the Café Confederation Cup, where Al Ahly Tripoli reached the semi-finals after beating neighbors Al Ittihad in the last eight.

“These teams have a lot of players who are also in the national team, they are probably the most important clubs in the country,” he insisted.

Martins was aiming for an opening win against Botswana and has already been working with the home players, who started a camp a fortnight ago, as they make up the bulk of his squad.

“We know that if we want to qualify for the final, we have to win at home,” he insisted.

“We are going to prepare well for this match and prepare the best team possible to win. Then we play against Equatorial Guinea, which was in the last finals in Cameroon and who will have a difficult time.”

He will have to do without midfielder Al-Musrati, who has asked to be dropped from the squad as he negotiates a transfer away from Portuguese club Sporting Braga.

The 26-year-old has been linked with a move to Fulham following their promotion to the English Premier League.

Libya has only been to three Nations Cup finals – in 1982, when they finished second as the host nation, in 2006 and the last in 2012.

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