Afcon 2021: Comoros proud to make debut appearance at Nations Cup

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Comoros in action against GabonComoros (in green) are ranked 132nd in the world

Comoros may have lost their Africa Cup of Nations opener, but the occasion is one which will always be savoured in the tiny islands in the Indian Ocean.

One of two debutants at the tournament in Cameroon, the Coelacanths lost 1-0 to Gabon in their first Group C match in Yaounde on Monday.

"It was a really proud moment. Exciting, but sometimes we could feel some nerves," midfielder Fouad 'Fred' Bachirou told BBC Sport Africa.

"We are proud to represent our country, proud to fly our flag in this huge competition."

For years Comoros, a country more famous for its history of political coups, struggled to make any impact whatsoever in qualifying, let alone come close to reaching the continent's showpiece.

Their first major win came in 2016, when they beat Botswana in what was their 20th attempt to win either a Nations Cup or World Cup qualifier.

And, with a squad bolstered by members of the diaspora mostly based in France, Comoros achieved a maiden qualification - losing just one of their six matches to book their place in Cameroon.

The Islands' president Azali Assoumani was present at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo to show his support as the country of just under a million inhabitants took their place among Africa's footballing elite for the first time.

"We didn't play as well as we usually do, but we understand, it's the first game of the competition," Bachirou added.

"But have now broken the ice and I am sure we will be more confident and eager to win in the second game."

Comoros are in Group C together with Gabon, Morocco and Ghana, and face Morocco in their next game on Friday (16:00 GMT).

"Our target is to win as many games as possible, and at the end of the group stages we will see where we are," Bachirou, who plays for Cypriot side Omonia Nicosia, added.

Only three out of eleven debutants have reached the knockout stages since the turn of the century. Madagascar, however, made it to the quarter finals on their very first attempt in 2019 in Egypt.

The Gambia, this year's other Nations Cup debutants, make their bow against Mauritania in Group F on Wednesday (16:00 GMT).

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