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Afcon's Giant Killers: Cape Verde on the Brink of Tournament Glory

When the groups were decided for this year's Afcon, when looking at Group B, the two favourites would have been considered as four-time finalists, Ghana and the 2021 finalists, Eygpyt. However, Cape Verde, the smallest of the 24 competing countries, has shaken the group up after only one round of group fixtures with a resilient performance against Ghana with an added time goal from Garry Rodriguez to cause the most significant upset so far at the tournament and with the addition of Eygpt dropping points against Mozambique, can Cape Verde win consecutive games at Afcon for the first time and knock out a favourite of the tournament?

Form At Afcon

This is Cape Verde's 4th appearance at Afcon, and since then have qualified from the group stages on two occasions in 2013 and 2021 but have never won a game in the knockout stages, only making it to the Quarterfinals on both occasions, losing 2-0 against Ghana in 2013 and losing 2-0 to eventual winners Senegal in 2021.

Additionally, their group stage stats across the tournaments that they have qualified for are something to be marvelled at, such as never losing an opening game of their tournament and have made sure to keep that run going; additionally, 6 of their 11 matches at the tournament so far have ended in a draw, with their two wins taking place against Angola in 2013 and Ethiopia in 2022, both in the group stages.

Cape Verde has qualified from the AFCON group stages on two previous occasions, in 2013 and 2021, but has never won a game in the competition's knockout phase, losing 2-0 to Ghana in 2013 and eventual winners Senegal in 2021. They have only lost one of their nine group matches against Burkina Faso in January 2022.

It is safe to say that in their few tournaments so far, they have performed just as well, if not better, than some of the more well-known superpowers of African football and have shown on more than one occasion, with Sunday's game against Ghana being the most recent example that they aren't afraid to dig deep and force teams into mistakes such as the glaring defensive error that lead to one of the easiest goals of Garry Rodrigues's career.

Remaining Fixtures

Tomorrow is a crucial game for Cape Verde as they face Mozambique, and the Blue Sharks are looking to secure maximum points to secure their place in the round of 16 and would match their form at the 2021 tournament; it would be good to see Cape Verde make it to the knockouts in successive tournaments and should be encouraged and back themselves after their incredible opening performance and seal qualification.

Cape Verde will face Eygpt in their final group game and, depending on their second game and Eygpt's game against Ghana, will most likely go into their last match with much less pressure to take the total points and pile on more pressure on favourites Eygpt.

Can It Really Be Done?

There is certainty, especially with tournament football, which has visibly been shown with Cape Verde's win over Ghana and Mozambique's draw over Eygpt, and whilst the first round of results does put them in a good position at the top of the group, tomorrow game against Mozambique is crucial as even with a point they can effectively se ure their place in the round of 16 with a game to spare. Whilst they cannot affect the game between Ghana and Egypt, they will have to be able to focus on themselves and cannot look to other results to guide them to the knockouts.

Additionally, their win will make Ghana and Eypgt look over their shoulders, as with both dropping points, they need to control their respective tournaments meaning that it is ultimately Cape Verde's tournament to lose and with a win against Mozambique and depending on the result of the other game they are one step closer to causing one of the first major upsets of this years tournament.

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