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Cape Verde's history men face South Africa for place in semis at Cup of Nations

By Paul Myers - RFI
South Africa  Photo by FRANCK FIFE  AFP
FEB 2, 2024 LISTEN
© Photo by FRANCK FIFE / AFP

History beckons for Cape Verde on Saturday night in Yamoussoukro when a team from the archipelago of islands in the Atlantic Ocean attempts to reach the semi-finals at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.

Success would eclipse the pioneers who advanced to the last eight during an inaugural appearance at the tournament in 2013.

Back then they were undone 2-0 by a more savvy Ghana side. Two years later they went out at the group stages after drawing all three of their games.

Absent from the 2017 and 2019 competitions, they returned in 2021 in Cameroon where they fell to eventual champions Senegal in the last-16.

Eleven years on from that initial Cup of Nations adventure, they snatched a late win over an imploding Ghana side, pummelled Mozambique 3-0 and maintained their unbeaten streak with a late strike to draw 2-2 with Egypt.

They rode their luck in the last-16 against an energetic Mauritania side but prevailed 1-0. Ryan Mendes - who featured during the run to the last eight in 2013 - converted a penalty to send them through.

"I think from what we've done people like the football that we are playing," said Cape Verde boss Bubista.

"And they also like the team spirit that we are showing as we've tried to give game time to everyone."

Work

Team ethic defined Cameroon's surge to the 2017 title under Hugo Broos who says he sees the same esprit de corps among his South Africa side who pulled off the biggest shock of the tournament in the last-16 when they beat the heavily fancied Moroccans 2-0 in San Pedro.

A win against Cape Verde will take South Africa into the semis for the first time since 2000.

"I'm very happy to be here," said Teboho Mokoena who scored a sumptuous free-kick to seal the victory over Morocco at the Stade Laurent Pokou.

"I'm proud of the team because no one gave us a chance especially after the first game where we lost to Mali.

"But we've come back stronger. We regrouped and we've worked very hard to be where we are now."

With the delayed 2023 tournament quickly becoming fabled for its surprises, none of the remaining teams have rushed to don the mantle of favourites.

The Nigeria boss José Peseiro - whose team plays Angola on Friday afternoon - said: "It's 50-50. You start at 0-0. There is only that."

Even still, South Africa, due to the sheer size of the population, footballing culture and Cup of Nations pedigree, will go into the game as the likelier candidates.

"I have to congratulate all my teammates and all the staff because we've done  a great job,” said the veteran Cape Verdean goalkeeper Vozinha,

"It's amazing," added the 37-year-old who has played in all but one of his country's 13 previous matches at Cup of Nations tournaments..

"We know we are a small country, but if we are united, we can achieve many great things."

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