2017 Africa Cup of Nations: Botswana win has Comoros dreaming big

By Piers EdwardsBBC Sport
Comoros and Millwall's Nadjim 'Jimmy' Abdou
Comoros captain Nadjim 'Jimmy' Abdou plays his club football for Millwall in the third tier of English football

Comoros captain Nadjim 'Jimmy' Abdou says the historic victory over Botswana in March has given his side belief that they can beat Burkina Faso on Sunday.

The island nation beat Botswana 1-0 at home earlier this year to register their maiden victory in either Africa Cup of Nations or World Cup qualifying.

It came at the 20th time of asking and leaves Comoros with an outside chance of reaching next year's Nations Cup.

"Now we are confident we can win at home," Abdou told BBC Sport.

"We have to win this game to hope to be able to go through. It will be tough to be honest but we are aiming to win and will see what happens after that."

Even with a shock victory against the Burkinabe, Comoros would also need to register a historic first qualifying away win - in Uganda in September - to have any chance of an unlikely qualification for Gabon 2017.

Did you know?
The smallest country to ever qualify for the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations is Cape Verde, who reached the 2013 and 2015 finals despite being a nation of just half a million.

Lying bottom of Group D with three points, four behind joint leaders Burkina Faso and Uganda, Comoros' faint dreams are also relying on other results going their way.

Nonetheless, the victory over Botswana - which came more than 3,000 days after first contesting a qualifier - has established new targets, especially for the fans.

"They think we are going to be in a tournament - that's normal as a fan," said Abdou, who has captained the side since 2011.

"The fans over there believe in us and we have to believe in ourselves as well."

The Botswana result beat Comoros' previous best in qualifiers which came in 2018 World Cup qualifying when they earned an away goals win over Lesotho in the first round.

That victory set up a tie against Ghana who they held to a goalless draw in Comoros before being eliminated after losing 2-0 away.

Boina Houssamdine, Comoros football blogger:
The win against Botswana is pushing the players to achieve a second victory, really helping their mental state. In addition, the team has not lost at home since October 2015. But the match will not be easy for either side. They have met twice before - a 1-1 draw in a 2014 friendly and a 2-0 loss in the first round of qualifiers last June. Given both teams need a win, an attacking match should be expected.

"At home everything is possible," said Abdou, who plays for Millwall in the third tier of English football.

"At home we feel confident and we can make this game hard for them."

Abdou hopes youngsters back home dreaming of a life in sport can follow his example of making it in Europe, where nearly all the squad are based - most of them in France.

However, he says they are being held back by a lack of facilities in his impoverished nation, an archipelago of islands in the Indian Ocean with a population of around 750,000.

"The young players are hungry to learn," the 31-year-old explained.

"I think they have a bright future but of course we need help and a lot of new facilities to make them train every day - week in, week out - to be good footballers. We have a lack of facilities."

"We also need a lot of coaches to make them train like here in Europe and I think that will help."

Comoros are one of Africa's lowest-ranked teams, rated 49th by Fifa out of the continent's 54 nations, but their placing of 159 is the highest since they joined the game's world governing body in 2005.

Abdou credits an increase in experience - with the team having played their maiden African qualifier as relatively recently as 2007 (in a joint 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup qualifier) - with registering their first win, played out in front of a capacity crowd of 8,000.

"We are such a good young team and we have had a lot of games as well, so I think the experience made us win this game," he said.

"In years back, we would have lost that game. The atmosphere was unbelievable.

"I've been there since 2010 and every time we play at home, we nearly win or we draw, but this time we managed to win. Everyone was happy and it was a great feeling."

While Comoros host 2013 Nations Cup runners-up Burkina Faso this week, Uganda travel to face Botswana, who have four points.

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