Unfancied Cape Verde say they are ready for the big teams at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after reaching the quarter-finals on their debut.
The Blue Sharks, best known for dumping mighty Cameroon to qualify for this tournament, dramatically edged Angola 2-1 Sunday to advance to the last eight of the competition as Group A runners-up behind South Africa.
While the Cape Verdeans prepare for the round of eight, Angola and former champions Morocco are heading home.
Cape Verde face the winners of Group B — probably Ghana — on February 2 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in this Indian Ocean city.
“The strongest team in Group B is Ghana and we will probably meet them in the quarter-finals,” said an emotional coach Lucio Antunes, who sang a traditional song as his jubilant squad joined in at a press conference.
“We are ready and happy to play against them because they are one of the best sides in Africa and at this stage of the competition we have to come up against such teams.
“We will keep working well to try and win the next game.”
Vastly experienced skipper Nando put through his own goal against Angola on Sunday before the Blue Sharks rallied to win 2-1 through goals from Fernando Varela and Heldon.
“Emotions are really high, but we hope to continue to take this tournament step by step because we wish to go as far as possible,” said centre-back Guy Ramos.
The Netherlands-based defender said the footballers representing 10 islands off the Senegalese coast are not under pressure and the solidarity in the squad means they could extend the fairy tale run.
“It’s like a crazy dream. But this is not a surprise for us because we know what we are capable of and there is no pressure on us
“We have some players who can decide a game for us in just a few moments and they did that against Angola.
“And we are not just a group of footballers — we are a family. When you are down, the group lifts you up.”
He added: “We have watched matches in Group B and the top teams are Ghana and Mali.
“It’s likely we will now meet Ghana, but we cannot expect anything less because at this stage we will face only the big teams and we are ready.”