Africa Nations Cup: Cape Verde capable of reaching last eight

Reuters| Last Updated: Jan 10, 2015, 11:14 AM IST
Africa Nations Cup: Cape Verde capable of reaching last eight

The Cape Verde Islands arrived as an oddity at the last African Nations Cup finals but two years on will have credible hopes of again reaching the quarter-finals of the continental championship. 

They compete against the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tunisia and Zambia in Group B of the tournament, which kicks off in Equatorial Guinea on Jan. 17. 

With a population of just over 500,000, the island archipelago were something of a fairytale story when they earned their Nations Cup finals appearance in South Africa in 2013. 

But not content with just participating, they finished above Angola and Morocco to earn a last eight place, their coach famously bursting into celebratory song at a post-match press conference, before defeat by Ghana. 

Since then, they controversially just missed out on a berth in the World Cup qualifying playoffs and then romped through the latest Nations Cup preliminaries, securing their place in the finals again with two group matches to play. 

They are now a legitimate force in the African game, who will command a healthy respect from their opponents in Equatorial Guinea. 

Tunisia are the top ranked team in Group B and perennial qualifiers for the finals, as are Zambia. Both have been to 16 previous finals tournaments. 

Tunisia were unbeaten in their qualifying campaign, topping a tough group ahead of Senegal and eliminating Egypt, who have won a record number of Nations Cup titles. 

Tunisia are a highly disciplined, sometimes cynical, side who showed few frills but a steely determination in their recent games. 

Zambia won their last three qualifiers to secure a sixth successive finals appearance but the strength of their current squad is a far cry from the team that won the 2012 edition, which was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. Zambia have retained just eight players from that winning squad. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo scraped into the finals as the best third placed finisher in the group qualifiers and although have persuaded striker Dieumerci Mbokani back to play after a two-year hiatus remain a country of enormous potential but little delivery. 

Group B is based in Ebebiyin, a town on the border with both Cameroon and Gabon which, with a population of some 40,000, will be the smallest venue to yet host a Nations Cup finals match.