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HomeAfricaIvory CoastAFRICA CUP OF NATIONS: ‘We believe,’ say giant-killers Cape Verde, as Afcon...

AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS: ‘We believe,’ say giant-killers Cape Verde, as Afcon quarterfinal clash with Bafana looms

South Africa take on Cape Verde on Saturday evening in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) quarterfinals, with the winner playing Nigeria or Angola in the semifinals next week.

For Cape Verde, a small island nation off the west coast of Africa with a population of about 600,000, reaching the quarterfinal stage is already an incredible achievement. The accomplishment ranks alongside their best performance at Afcon — they were knocked out by Ghana at the same stage in 2013.

cape verde bafana

Roberto Jose Evora Dias, Jao Paulo Moreira Fernades of Cape Verde and Sidi Bouna Amar Sibi Amar of Mauritania during the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 match at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny on 29 January 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo: Didier Lefa / Gallo Images)

That tournament, hosted in South Africa, was the first time Cape Verde had qualified to play in Afcon. 

Their first Afcon appearance was the opening match of the tournament — against Bafana Bafana, which they drew 0-0. They went on to shock  Angola 2-1 in their final group-stage match to qualify for the knockouts. 

cape verde afcon

Cape Verde celebrate a goal during the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 match against Mauritania at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny on 29 January 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo: Didier Lefa / Gallo Images)

They have taken their giant slaying up a level in the 2024 edition of the tournament. 

Positioned alongside African behemoths Egypt and Ghana in Pool B, Cape Verde topped their group, beating Ghana 2-1 before drawing 2-2 with Egypt. Sandwiched in between was a 3-0 thrashing of Mozambique. 

Underdogs 

Cape Verde maintained their momentum from the group stage, narrowly overcoming Mauritania 1-0 in the round of 16 this week. It was a tightly fought contest, one that needed a late spot kick from captain Ryan Mendes to separate the two sides. 

“We are proud of everything we have done up to now. We always tried to win the game and we thoroughly deserved the victory,” Cape Verde coach Pedro “Bubista” Brito said after the clash. 

cape verde afcon bafana

Pedro ‘Bubista’ Brito, head coach of Cape Verde (centre) celebrates with coaching staff after the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations group stage match between Cape Verde and Egypt at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny on 22 January 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo: Visionhaus / Getty Images)

Brito, however, believes there is more to come from the Blue Sharks. “We have our objective, which from day one has been to get to the semifinals,” he said. 

“We are one step away from that now and we are going to keep going, while obviously staying humble and respecting our opponents, but we believe.

“That is our focus and we are going to try and get there.” 

Brito has an impressive record as coach of the national side since he took over at the start of 2020. He has won 18 matches of his 39 in charge, with nine draws and 12 losses. 

His side is ranked 73rd by Fifa, while South Africa are 66th. 

cape verde afcon quarterfinal

Cape Verde celebrate a goal during the Africa Cup of Nations round of 16 match against Mauritania at Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny on 29 January 2024 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. (Photo: Didier Lefa / Gallo Images)

After winning their first Afcon tournament since readmission in 1996 and going on to finish second and third in the two ensuing tournaments, South Africa have not made the semifinals since.

Bafana Bafana are looking to regain their standing as a power in African soccer while the Blue Sharks want to stamp their authority. It sets the stage for an intriguing clash. DM

The game between South Africa and Cape Verde kicks off at 10pm at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.