2018 World Cup: Cape Verde expect late drama in Group D
Cape Verde coach Lucio Antunes believes Group D of African qualifying will go down to the wire as his island nation battles to reach its first World Cup.
Cape Verde catapulted into contention, having been bottom of the group, after back-to-back wins against South Africa.
“Qualification will only be decided in November, in the last minute of the last games,” predicted Antunes, after Tuesday’s win in Durban.
“Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Senegal and South Africa are very similar.”
Following their victories, Cape Verde – a nation with a population of just over 500,000 – lie second on six points, trailing Group D leaders Burkina Faso on goal difference, with Senegal on five points while South Africa have just four.
Cape Verde, who appeared at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 2013 and then again in 2015, host Senegal in Praia on 7 October as Burkina Faso face Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg.
The group concludes in early November with Cape Verde in Burkina Faso, while Senegal entertain South Africa.
“We will not be feeling any pressure – there is nothing like that on our players,” added Antunes.
The coach said he never doubted that Cape Verde, nicknamed the ‘Blue Sharks’, would prove competitive in the group, even if they lost their opening games against Senegal (in Dakar) and Burkina Faso (in Praia).
“We felt before qualification started we could win all our games,” added Antunes, a former air traffic controller. “We felt it was possible to win all six and take 18 points.”
For Garry Rodrigues, the Galatasaray winger who scored both goals in Durban with two stunning long-range efforts, the tantalising prospect of the World Cup is now in focus.
“It is the dream of every footballer to go to the World Cup. It’s the biggest tournament in the world – I dream about that,” he said.
“Nothing is impossible if you believe and you work hard, like we did in these two games, because it is not only about quality or how big a country is. Our dream continues and in two months, we will see.”