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Football | Afcon 2017

Ryan Mendes © Action Images

Afcon finalists Cape Verde Islands



Factbox on African Nations Cup finalists Cape Verde Islands ahead of this year's tournament in South Africa from January 19 to February 10:

Previous appearances in African Nations Cup finals: none

Fifa world ranking December 2012: 69th

Coach: Lucio Antunes has won himself near-mythical status in his homeland for guiding the Cape Verdians to the Nations Cup. The 46-year-old worked his way up through the federation ranks as a coach of the national youth teams before being appointed in 2010 to take over the senior side. He previously won the national championship with Academica Sal.

Key players:

Heldon (Maritimo). Age: 24 Pos: Forward

Scorer of vital goals in the qualifying competition which ensured the island archipelago's progress to the Nations Cup finals. He moved to Portugal in 2007 and worked his way up through the amateur ranks to sign for Maritimo in 2010. He played and scored for the Madeira-based club in the Europa League this season.

Ryan Mendes (Lille). Age: 23 Pos: Forward

Pacey player who likes to run at defenders and has made a successful transition to Ligue 1 with former champions Lille from Le Havre this season. He was regarded as one of the best players in Ligue 2 over the last three seasons after Le Havre spotted him as an 18-year-old participating in a youth tournament.

Fernando Varela (FC Vaslui). Age: 25 Pos: Defender

Lisbon-born defender, who has been relegated twice from the top flight of Portuguese football with Trofense and Feirense. Moved to Romania at the start of the season to join an enclave of African players at FC Vaslui, who were third in the standings going into the winter break.

Prospects:

The Cape Verdians have made a fairytale run to the finals, becoming the smallest country (population just over 500 000) to compete at the Nations Cup and taking the scalp of the mighty Cameroon in the process. They will be a unknown quantity but face the daunting prospect of playing against hosts South Africa in the opening game on January 19 in front of a partisan crowd of some 90 000.



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