This has been quite the weekend in terms of football shocks. Aston Villa, Tottenham, Norwich, QPR and Liverpool have fallen by the wayside in the FA Cup to lower league opposition, while St Mirren brushed Celtic aside to get into the Scottish League Cup final. The surprise to round the weekend off was the passage of the mighty Cape Verde into the last eight of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Blue Sharks needed a win to guarantee their place in the quarter finals, in what is their debut international finals tournament. Having scored only once in their previous two games, a difficult task looked nigh on impossible after Neves headed spectacularly past his own goalkeeper on 33 minutes to give Angola (a fellow Portuguese-speaking nation) the lead.
Both sides then exchanged chances, with Cape Verde throwing on two subs at half-time in an attempt to take the game to their opponents. Things were looking dire until the 81st minute, with the Angolan keeper Lama fumbling a corner and allowing Varela to convert. In the final ten minutes, all four sides in Group A were in a qualifying position for the quarter finals, with Morocco and South Africa exchanging goals in the other match.
The Blue Sharks’ place in the last 8, however, was not secured until the final minute of normal time, with Heldon capitalising on another Lama mistake and smashing home the winner. He was absolutely mobbed by his delighted team-mates, who continued the party in coach Luis Antunes’ post-match press conference.
Joining Cape Verde in the last 8 will be South Africa, their 2-2 draw with Morocco being enough for Bafana Bafana to go through as group winners. The Blue Sharks’ 600,000 followers back home will be watching their team most likely play Ghana in the next round. Though the Black Stars may be one of the favourites for the tournament, they cannot afford to take this Cape Verdean side lightly. Antunes (an air traffic controller by trade) will no doubt be relishing the prospect of putting his side from the island nation up against one of the superstar sides of Africa. It seems unlikely that Cape Verde can do a “Zambia” and stage a miraculous run to the final; what is clear in their peformances so far in South Africa is that they belong at African football’s top table.