The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde's captain, Ryan Mendes, became an instant hero with his perfect penalty at the Houphouet Boigny Stadium against the hard-fighting Almoralvidi of Mauritania to send his team to the quarterfinals of the ongoing African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cote d'Ivoire.
The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde have now qualified for the quarterfinals of the biennial biggest football showpiece on African soil for the second time in their history. Mauritanian goalkeeper Babacar Niasse, who plays in Senegal, was guilty of a bad tackle when he brought down a Cape Verdean in the box, and the resultant penalty kick in the 88th minute earned him a yellow and a neat goal to send the stubborn Mauritanian crashing.
The Mauritanians were bionic, especially in defense, contesting every ball with strength, while it was obvious that their game plan was to take the match into penalty shootouts with their relentless defensive style. The defensive-minded Mauritanian, however, did not get a single shot on target from 11 shots at goal, and their opponent had 19 shots at goal, with four on target, sapping the Mauritanian goalkeeper.
The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde were obviously the better side as every move was blocked as they had 71-29 ball possession; they stringed 462-199 passes, showing the dominance was massive, but the match was physical and volatile from the beginning to the end, where the match ended with 18-12 foul calls against Cape Verde resulting in 1-1 yellow cards. Cape Verde now awaits the winner of the match between the defending champions, the Teranga Lions, and the wobbling elephants of Ivory Coast.
Cape Verde is appearing for the fourth time, but their best result was a quarterfinal at South Africa 2013 when Ghana dismissed them 2-0 at Port Elizabeth on February 2nd. Mauritania, ranked 105 in the world, only appeared at the AFCON games twice in 1985 and 2021 and, on both occasions, was kicked out of the group stages.
The Blue Sharks of Cape Verde won Group B with 7 points, making them the first team to qualify for the Round of 16 by scoring 7 goals and conceding 3 to leave Egypt in the 2nd position, while Ghana and Mozambique were sent packing. Cape Verde defeated Ghana 2-1, blasted Mozambique 3-0, and played a 2-2 draw with Egypt in the group stages.