Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Who are AFCON 2023 surprise package Cape Verde? Everything to know ahead of quarterfinal South Africa showdown

Cape Verde are one of the major surprise packages of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Ivory Coast — arguably even more so than Saturday’s quarterfinal opponents South Africa. The Blue Sharks’ second AFCON last eight outing has arguably been slightly overshadowed by a domestic-based Bafana Bafana side dumping favorites Morocco out in the round of 16, but that should not take away from the fantastic work that Pedro Leitao Brito — Bubista — and his players have done in this edition.

So, who are Cape Verde and how have they reached this point in what has been an extremely unpredictable AFCON so far?  

How to watch and odds

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 3 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • Location: Stade Charles Konan Banny — Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast
  • TV: beIN Sports USA
  • Odds: Cape Verde +160; Draw +200; South Africa +175

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Route so far

Cape Verde finished top of Group B ahead of Egypt, Ghana and Mozambique so perhaps getting this far should not be that much of a surprise. Mauritania were knocked out in the round of 16 in a battle two sides who have won plenty of admirers this edition. The expectation was that Morocco would be up next until South Africa triumphed on penalties to set up this meeting. Should the Blue Sharks reach a first-ever AFCON semifinal here, they will be up against Nigeria or Angola, having avoided Mali, hosts Ivory Coast, DR Congo and Guinea on the other side of the draw.


This is not Cape Verde’s first quarterfinals appearance, having managed that in 2013 on their AFCON debut with 2015 and 2021 outings following. However, it should be noted that the round of 16 format did not exist 10 years ago so their 2-0 quarterfinal loss to Ghana was directly after the group stage which they finished second in behind Saturday’s opponents. A win here would write brand new history for Bubista and his side but Hugo Broos’ South African side is deceptive given the country’s historic pedigree despite this being a largely Africa-based group of players. Bafana Bafana have reached this stage six times and gone to the semis three times — their 1996 win, their 1998 final defeat and their 2000 semifinal outings.

Star players

Cape Verde do not have a standout goal scoring talent like some of the other surprise packages have had this year. Equatorial Guinea’s relative success came courtesy of Emilio Nsue’s five goals while Angola have been helped by Gelson Dala’s four strikes so far. Should the Black Sable Antelopes be the Blue Sharks’ next opponents, Ryan Mendes’ two goals would not necessarily mark the veteran out as the key man. Former Manchester United man Bebe, San Jose Earthquakes’ Jamiro Monteiro, Krasnodar’s Kevin Pina, Ankaragucu’s Garry Rodrigues, Benfica’s Gilson Tavares and Sturm Graz’s Bryan Teixeira have also scored so far this tournament.

Second nationality

A quirk of this Cape Verde team is that all of the players called up by Bubista come from different clubs. and one of the reasons for that is the fact that many of the players were not actually born in the West African country based on the central Atlantic Ocean. Of the current crop, Bebe was born in Portugal, Roberto Lopes — also known as Pico — was born and raised in Ireland where he plays for Shamrock Rovers and Garry Rodrigues, Deroy as well as Laros Duarte were all born in the Netherlands. Despite sharing the same surname, place of birth (Rotterdam) and lineage, neither Deroy nor Laros are related to former AFC Ajax player Lerin Duarte. 

Notable players with Cape Verdean origin who have chosen to play for another country include Nani and Manuel Fernandes (Portugal), Patrick Vieira (France), Gelson Fernandes (Switzerland) and Henrik Larsson (Sweden). They all opted to play for their countries of birth with Fernandes the only player who was actually born in Cape Verde before moving to Switzerland with his family. aged five. where he came through the ranks with FC Sion. Had many of those names chosen differently, Cape Verde might have developed into a stronger international side much earlier on in its existence. 

French influence

Arguably of greatest influence on this Cape Verde team, though, is France — a number of players were born there, grew up there or featured in Ligue 1, Ligue 2 or one of the various French Championnat Nationals (three semiprofessional leagues from the third to fifth tier). Toulouse’s Logan Costa, Omonia’s Willy Semedo, Columbus Crew’s Steven Moreira and Sturm Graz’s Bryan Teixeira were all born in France and opted for their second nationality for an international career while Fatih Karagumruk’s Ryan Mendes and AEZ Zakakiou’s Kenny Rocha moved to France later in life and launched their professional careers there. San Jose Earthquakes’ Jamiro Monteiro spent two years there with FC Metz while Switzerland-born Dylan Tavares is also based in France after being born Swiss but opting to represent Cape Verde.

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