About a year ago, my girlfriend and I enjoyed a fantastic holiday in sunny Cape Verde, an archipelago off the west coast of Africa (about 250 miles west of Senegal). I watched their football side (on the local TV channel) perform gallantly in failing to get to the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (which would have been their first), beating Zimbabwe at home but missing out after Liberia couldn’t do them a favour and beat Mali.
I have followed the Cape Verde national team (the Blue Sharks) and their fortunes since via the web and Livescore. A sluggish start to their World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign has been rather eclipsed by an incredible result today in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers. The tournament is moving from even years to odd, meaning the next tournament is as early as next year in South Africa. Bearing this in mind, CAF have (very wisely) expedited the qualfiers to three rounds of 2-legged ties, with the big guns coming in for the last round.
Cape Verde received a bye in round 1, then in round 2 eased past Madagascar by 7 goals to 1 on aggregate. The final round of qualifiers started today, with Cape Verde drawn against the mighty Cameroon. Cameroon were down Samuel Eto’o (who withdrew from the squad on 27 August citing Cameroon’s set-up as “amateurish” ), but that will be no excuse for Cape Verde’s incredible 2-0 win in Praia. According to various match reports, the Blue Sharks dominated the game, with Cameroon running out of ideas fairly quickly. Cape Verde’s two goals came by way of two set pieces, with Ricardo (who plies his trade in Portugal) and Djaniny, also based in the former colonial master country, hitting the back of the net.
The return trip to Yaounde on 12 October will not be easy (with rumours of Eto’o coming back into the side for that game), but losing by a goal will still see the islanders to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations. That in itself would be quite an incredible achievement for a country with a population of less than 600,000.
I put this on my Cape Verde post last year, but thought it had to be re-posted – this is the fans’ song played on the Cape Verdean national broadcaster at half-time when they show Cape Verde matches. Certainly beats listening to Neil McCann attempt to string two sentences together: