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AFCON 2023: Boastful Bafana Bafana of South Africa squares up against most improved team, Blue Sharks of Cape Verde

Posted : 03 February 2024

South Africa definitely boasts of creating one of the major upsets in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) with a memorable win over the highest-ranked team in Africa, the Atlas Lions of Morocco.

In fact, the Bafana Bafana win is one of the least expected for many, as no one could have given South Africa the edge over Morocco, given the latter's recent exploits at the last World Cup in Qatar, where they reached the semi-finals.

For both countries, Cape Verde and South Africa, it's time to seek momentous wins when they face off in their Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final at Stade Charles Konan Banny de Yamoussoukro.

The Blue Sharks have never advanced beyond this stage, while their opponents seek a place in the semi-finals for the first time since 2000.

From the teams left in AFCON 2023, only Angola (nine) have netted more than Cape Verde's eight heading into the quarter-finals, with Bubista's men falling behind the Palancas Negras after scoring just one against Mauritania in the round of 16.

That match was decided by a late Ryan Mendes penalty, with the Blue Sharks converting the 88th-minute spot-kick after Babacar Niasse's foul cost a battling Mauritania side in their first-ever knockout game.

Their success and Egypt's elimination mean Cape Verde is Group B's only remaining representative still in the finals, and they could preserve that as they seek to make it past this stage for the first time.

The last eight was the Blue Sharks' limit in 2013 (eliminated by Ghana), and it was the round of 16 at AFCON 2021 (beaten by eventual champions Senegal), making a meeting with South Africa comparatively more favorable than previous years.

As it is, Bubista's men are flying high, motivating them against any opponent as they aim to continue their undefeated AFCON 2023 run.

However, Bafana Bafana are still in equally high spirits after a stunning 2-0 victory over Cup of Nations favorites Morocco, with Evidence Makgopa putting the 1996 champions 1-0 ahead before Teboho Mokoena's late free-kick made the result safe against short-handed opposition.

Hugo Broos's team had to ride their luck before that second after conceding a late penalty, only for Achraf Hakimi to fail to hit the target, but they will argue that such fortunate breaks are imperative for a non-favorite to succeed at the continental showpiece.

Be that as it may, Bafana Bafana have more experience than their opponents of this stage, even if eagle-eyed observers should point to their inability to advance to the last four since the start of the millennium.

That came four years after claiming the campaign on home soil, but the South Africans have come unstuck since — exiting at the quarter-finals in the 16-team competition in 2002, 2013 (as hosts), and in 2019 after the expansion to 24 nations.

With a game against Nigeria or Angola potentially coming in the semis, Broos's side needs no external motivation to secure a semi-final spot.

Mendes became the first Cape Verdean to score more than once at the Cup of Nations, proving that the Blue Sharks have hitherto not relied on one player.

Having welcomed back Bebe against Mauritania following a niggle, Bubista is expected to retain the same side that eliminated the Lions of Chinguetti in the first knockout round.

Broos is not expected to alter the backline that has kept three consecutive clean sheets against Namibia, Tunisia, and Morocco, with captain Ronwen Williams keeping his place between the sticks.

Besides Percy Tau, Themba Zwane (brace against Namibia), and Makgopa have demonstrated their match-winning expertise, adding to Bafana Bafana's growing confidence.

This game will be a deciding moment for both teams.



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