Cape Verde seek to match their best Africa Cup of Nations showing when they face Mauritania in a round of 16 clash at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium on Monday January 29, 2024.
The Blue Sharks surprisingly topped Group B despite the presence of multiple-time winners Egypt and Ghana, while Mauritania stunned 2019 champions Algeria to secure passage to this stage for the first time in the nation’s history.
One of the fascinating observations about Cape Verde at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been the Blue Sharks’ tendency to pick results in different ways.
Bubista’s men left it late to defeat Ghana 2#1 in a game they edged on chances and overall performance, outdid 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, 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 on Monday.
The Blue Sharks netted three goals in the 2013 finals in South Africa, a tally they have outdone by four at AFCON 2023, and the strikes coming from different goalscorers indicates that Bubista’s side do not rely on one player to deliver the goods, adding to their unpredictability.
As for Mauritania, Monday’s game is a historic event for them, who had never played a knockout game at the continental showpiece but booked their spot with a stunning 1#0 triumph over Algeria in their final group game.
Amir Abdou is proving his worth on the continent as the go-to guy to have minnows punching above their weight, having taken lowly Comoros to the last 16 at the previous finals with an unforeseen victory over Ghana.
The tactician’s adeptness at coaching a compact side gives them a fighting chance against any opponent, and they seek to keep surmounting challenges on their path to a quarter-final spot.
Mauritania 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 and Comoros in 2029 and 2021 respectively, with the latter managed by Abdou.
It remains to be seen if Mauritania show 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’ favour.
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 Monday.
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.
Mauritania pair Ibrahima Keita and Omare Gassama made the most tackles, underscoring Mauritania’s controlled aggression out of possession.
Mohamed Dellahi Yali, match-winner against Algeria, is touch-and-go for Monday after suffering an injury in the 1#0 success over the Fennecs.
Cape Verde possible starting line-up
Vozinha; Moreira, Costa, Lopes, Paulo; Duarte, Pina, Monteiro; Mendes, Tavares, Cabral
Mauritania possible starting line-up
Niasse; Keita, El Abd, Ba, Abeid; Gassama; Bouna, Thiam, Mouhsine, Koita; Anne
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