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They are surprisingly the tenth placed African country on the latest FIFA rankings (51st worldwide) and Cape Verde have now qualified for the first finals of a major international competition in their history.
And they did in style, outclassing Cameroon in the final round of qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations 2013.
The Blue Sharks beat the Indomitable Lions 2-0 in Praia in September and then ultimately qualified on a 3-2 aggregate score, despite their 2-1 defeat in Yaoundé during the return leg.
Prior to this, Cape Verde had crushed Madagascar 7-1, after their double confrontation in the second round of qualifiers.
Lúcio Antunes men, who are the minnows of this 29th edition of the African continents showcase tournament, find themselves among the bottom seeds in Pot 4 prior to the draw, alongside Ethiopia, DR Congo and Togo, and they will achieve a remarkable feat if they manage to make it through the group phase in South Africa.
But the Cape Verdians will present themselves at the Afcon with some major assets, like young strikers Ryan Mendes and Zé Luis, who are both participating in the UEFA Champions League this year, as well as veterans Fernando Neves and Lito, whose experience could prove quite useful at this level.
Cape Verde can rightly be proud of their Africa Cup of Nations debut in South Africa 2013, as they defied the odds to reach the quarterfinals and proved worthy of a place at the tournament.
The Islanders started off with an impressive performance in the tournament opener against hosts South Africa in Soweto, where they were arguably the better team in a dour match that ended 0-0.
They were then unlucky not to beat Morocco in Durban (the match ended 1-1), before claiming a famous 2-1 win against Angola in Port Elizabeth thanks to late goals from Fernando Varela and Heldon which secured a place in the quarterfinals as runners-up of Group B.
The Blue Sharks then came up against Ghana in the last eight, and though they put up a brave performance, their tournament ultimately came to an end thanks to second half goals from substitute Mubarak Wakaso to hand the Black Stars a 2-0 win.
Cape Verde won many admirers at the tournament, more for their spirit and determination than their style of football, which was mainly based on keeping it tight at the back and looking to use the pace of Platini, Ryan Mendes and the likes on the counter attack.
Defenders Toni Varela and Nando (the captain), as well as hard-working midfielders Babanco and Toni Varela will certainly have their future career prospects no harm with their excellent performances.
For a nation of just over half a million people, Cape Verde punched well above their weight and proved once again that football can be a great leveller. Now the challenge for their FA and coach Lucio Antunes will be to build on this success and try become regulars at future AFCON tournaments.
|2019 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS QUALIFIERS TEAM RECORD|
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