Corentin Martins admits the pressure is on ahead of Afcon qualifiers

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

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

Libya host Botswana in Benghazi on Wednesday, and then travel to face Equatorial Guinea five days later.

Martins, 52, made his name as a coach in Africa during a six-year spell with Mauritania, who he took from among the also-rans to a first-ever Nations Cup finals in 2019.

“I had more time at the start of my job in Mauritania where we had one or two friendly matches first, a sort of internship, before the qualifiers began,” he pointed out to BBC Sport Africa.

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

“But with Libya we have less than a year to complete the qualifiers and I have only a one-year deal with the association. This means it is all going a lot faster than I am used to.”

Martins was given time with Mauritania despite not providing immediate success, but the former France international is aware that a slow start in the Libya job may see him come under pressure.

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

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

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

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

“I agreed to sign for a year and we will 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

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

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

“It’s a very motivating project because it’s been 10 years since Libya last qualified for the Nations Cup finals,” he said.

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

It is a point backed up by two Libyan clubs enjoying relative success in the Caf Confederation Cup, where Al Ahly Tripoli reached the semi-finals after beating neighbours 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 has targeted an opening victory against Botswana and has already been working with the home-based players, starting a camp a fortnight ago, as they make up the bulk of his squad.

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

“We are going to prepare well for this match and field the best possible team to win. After that we play Equatorial Guinea, who were at the last finals in Cameroon and who are gong to be difficult.”

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

The 26-year-old is being linked with a move to Fulham, following their promotion to the English Premier League.

Libya have only been to three Nations Cup finals – in 1982 when as hosts they finished runners-up, in 2006 and last in 2012.

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Herman Nnyanzi 'The Analyst' is a Ugandan multimedia sports journalist who started his career in 2017. He has a genuine strong love for sports and expertise, especially football. Contact me on +256704472629 or +256786403603

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