DEBUTANTS Cape Verde created soccer history when they qualified for the quarterfinals of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations by dramatically beating Angola 2-1 with a last-gasp winner at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last night.
It was a fairytale result for the islanders who played an attacking, fast-paced game against an Angolan outfit who have struggled to find their best form in South Africa.
South Africa finished top of Group A with five points and Cape Verde ended with the same tally, but were ranked second due to an inferior goal difference – the teams played to a 0-0 draw in their head-to-head match.
The result of the match, played in front of 10261 fans, was balanced on a knife edge right up until the final whistle as the permutations as to who would qualify from Group A fluctuated throughout the evening.
After trailing 1-0 for most of the game, Cape Verde were back on level terms in the 81st minute when Fernando Verela managed to get the ball into the net.
Then, right at the death, in the 90th minute, Cape Verde snatched the winner when Ramos Heldon scored after some indecisive play by the nervy Angolan defenders.
When the teams left the field for halftime, with Angola leading 1-0, news filtered through that South Africa were trailing by the same margin to Morocco and that Group A had been thrown wide open.
As expected, the showdown got off to a fast start and the best of the early chances fell to lanky Angolan striker Manucho, who had a golden opportunity to give his team the lead when he was allowed a free header inside the box in the 12th minute. However, much to the relief of the Cape Verde defenders, he headed wide of the target.
Cape Verde seemed to struggle to find their rhythm early on and their goalkeeper Tavares Fredson found himself under much more pressure than his Angolan counterpart, Mavanga Landu.
Last night's game was a high stakes affair as both teams had a chance of progressing to the quarterfinals depending on the outcome of the other final Group A game between South Africa and Morocco. After two games, the standings were: South Africa (4), Cape Verde Islands (2), Morocco (2) and Angola (1)
The Blue Sharks, who come from a group of 10 islands off the west African coast, have won many friends with their entertaining brand of football.
Prior to last night's outing Cape Verde held hosts South Africa 0-0 in the opening game of the competition and drew 1-1 with former champions Morocco in their second group outing.