Friendship and unity guiding the Islanders
Cape Verde Islands captain Nando has revealed that a strong bond of friendship and unity was guiding the Africa Cup of Nations minnows towards a memorable debut at the continental showpiece.
The tiny island nation turned out to be party poopers in South Africa's opening match when they held the hosts to a draw, while their second match saw them perform even better, before being forced to settle for a 1-1 scoreline against former champions Morocco.
They currently sit second in Group A behind Bafana Bafana and will cap a fairy-tale tournament by qualifying for the quarterfinals with victory over Angola on Sunday.
“Cape Verde is a small country but they have good players, it has talent, players who play in France, Cyprus, Portugal, who play all over Europe,” Nando said.
“And they contribute to making Cape Verde a good team, thanks to their experience.
“We have a united team, a strong team, with young people, a group of friends who work as a team every day.”
Lucio Antunes' team, who has just one home-based player in the 23-man squad, qualified for the tournament by ousting African powerhouse Cameroon over a two-legged eliminator, a result that sent shockwaves all over the globe.
Centre-back Nando believes that result has allowed them to play without any pressure in the competition, something that makes them even more dangerous.
“It means a lot to the people of Cape Verde (for us to be here),” he said. “We gave everything and played with a big heart to beat
“It was not an accident and it showed the world what we can do.
“It's not easy winning Afcon, but we don't have any pressure because we're just here to enjoy the moment and play football.”
He reiterated that his players were well aware of their objectives and what they were realistically trying to achieve, even though things could have been better, The Blue Sharks, as they are known, were mainly the better team against South Africa and then squandered a 1-0 lead after dominating their match against the Moroccans.
“As I said, for us just to be here is an achievement,” Nando added.
“We had a good game against the hosts and a good second game as well, when I thought we played our best game for a while.
“So we're off to a good start and we now want to finish well.
Finishing well means going to the quarterfinal, the next stage.”
Their final match will be played in Port Elizabeth.