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Will Blue Sharks of Cape Verde continue in historic fairy tale run in AFCON 2023 against Almoralvidi of Mauritania?

Posted : 29 January 2024

Two nations, the revelations of the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde, seek to stamp their authority with the new tag when they play Almoralvidi of Mauritania in the round of 16 clash at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium, Cote D'Ivoire.

The Blue Sharks have emerged as the most surprising team in the group stage and, without being given a chance, emerged as the Group B leader despite the presence of multiple-time winners Egypt and Ghana, while the Lions of Chinguetti stunned 2019 champions Algeria to secure passage to this stage for the first time in the nation's history.

Cape Verde at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been the Blue Sharks' niche to spring surprise results regardless of the team they are playing against.

The Bubista's men had to wait a longer time to show Ghana the exit door when both countries met and outplayed Ghana 2-1 in a game they edged Mozambique due to superior finishing and were reactive and responded impressively to nick a point off Egypt in their final group fixture.

Scoring late against the Black Stars and the Pharaohs suggests the Blue Sharks never stop playing until the final whistle, standing them in good stead in knockout football.

Having never made it past the quarter-final stage, the Bubista's side could match their 2013 performance with victory over the Mauritanian side as they seek their first victory in the competition's knockout rounds.

The AFCON had shown class against South Africa at the 2013 finals in South Africa, but still, many did not see the handwriting on the wall until AFCON 2023, and the strikes coming from different goalscorers indicate that Bubista's side does not rely on one player to deliver the goods, adding to their unpredictability.

For Almoralvidi of Mauritania, the game against the Blue Sharks will be historic in the annals of the country regardless of whatever comes out of the game.

The tactical in-depth of the team gave the team a compact style of having a fighting technique against any opponent, and they seek to keep surmounting challenges on their path to a quarter-final spot.

The Lions of Chinguetti have not only scored more than once in a game at AFCON 2023 — losing 3-2 to Angola — but became the third side to make the knockout rounds despite losing their opening two matches of the competition, joining DR Congo (2019) and Comoros (2021), the latter managed by Abdou.

It remains to be seen if Mauritania shows the compactness from their tournament opener against Burkina Faso or a more attacking approach in the loss to Angola, but this side cannot be disregarded in tournament football.

Garry Rodrigues (against Ghana) and Bryan Teixeira (against Egypt) have scored second-half stoppage-time goals for Cape Verde, and Bubista's in-game changes could swing the tie in the Blue Sharks' favor.

Their talismanic Bebe has not featured for the Group B winners since going off injured in the victory over Mozambique, and the former Manchester United man is touch-and-go for the knockout play.

Abdou's men can look to Aboubakary Koita, whose ball-striking provoked the cracker against Angola, and the wide attacker's dribbling saw him complete the most take-ons in the group stage.

The Lions of Chinguetti pair Ibrahima Keita (12) and Omare Gassama (11) made the most tackles, underscoring Mauritania's controlled aggression out of possession.

Mohamed Dellahi Yali, the match-winner against Algeria, is touch-and-go for Monday after suffering an injury in the 1-0 success over the Fennecs.

Neither the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde nor the Almoralvidi of Mauritania were expected to go deep into the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations before the tournament started, but their last-16 meeting on Monday means one of them will reach the quarter-finals.

Although it wouldn’t be the first time Cape Verde has made it to the last eight, as they did so in their maiden AFCON 11 years ago, the Blue Sharks have undoubtedly defied expectations to get this far considering their performance in the group stage.

Their route through the group stage was a little more fortunate than their next opponents’. Defeats to Angola and Burkina Faso in their first two games gave them the unenviable task of trying to get a result against a talented Algeria side; they managed it, and those three points were just enough to take them through as one of the four best third-place teams.

As such, they’re only the third team in AFCON history to reach the knockouts after losing their first two group matches.

Against a Cape Verde side full of belief and riding the crest of a wave following three positive results, Mauritania’s luck might just run out, however.

This will be the first-ever meeting between Cape Verde and Mauritania at the Africa Cup of Nations, which is perhaps unsurprising considering both are relative newcomers to the tournament.

They have played in other competitions, though. Their last encounter was in an African Nations Championship – a tournament in which teams can only pick players from their domestic leagues – qualifier in August 2019. Mauritania won that game 2-1 in Nouakchott.



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