French coach Julien Mette kept a bold promise to Djibouti football officials by guiding the tiny Horn of Africa state into the second round of 2022 World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
The country, which had won only one of 13 previous qualifiers, forced a shock 0-0 away draw with eSwatini (formerly Swaziland) to win a first round tie 2-1 on aggregate.
Djibouti built the one-goal first leg advantage last week, but a team ranked 195th in the world were not expected to retain it, given a woeful World Cup away record.
The outcome marked a dramatic turnaround from four years ago when eSwatini trounced Djibouti 8-1 over two legs in 2018 World Cup qualifying.
Known as the ‘Shoremen of the Red Sea’, their previous away losses included conceding nine goals in the Democratic Republic of Congo and eight in Malawi.
Mette was hired by Djibouti recently after coaching two Congo Brazzaville clubs and told by the national football federation president to “stop the regular five and six goals defeats and restore dignity to Djiboutian football.
“The officials did not speak to me about qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, the African Nations Championship or the World Cup,” Mette told the Fifa website.
“All he wanted was to stop losing 5-0 and 6-0 and I said I would definitely bring him that dignity.
“Before signing, I looked around and liked what I saw — the level of some of the players, the potential and the facilities.
“Djiboutian footballers like showing their skills, but they need to be more tactical, more disciplined and, most important of all, have personal ambitions.”
Eliminating eSwatini takes Djibouti into the second round, a six-round 40-nation group phase which kicks off in March.
Meanwhile, Gerald Phiri scored nine minutes from time to give Malawi a 1-0 victory over Botswana in Blantyre with the only goal of the two legs.
Goals from Clesio Bauque and Geny Catamo earned Mozambique a 2-0 win over Mauritius in Maputo and a three-goal aggregate success.
It was a satisfactory start for Mozambique-born coach Luis Goncalves, who was appointed last month after his predecessor lasted just two matches, one of which was a victory.