When South Africa President Jacob Zuma pulled Cape Verde out of the pot during the Africa Cup of Nations draw last October, the audience at Durban’s International Convention centre laughed out loud.
The loud laughter meant one thing: the Blue Sharks would not make a meaningful charge at their maiden tournament.
Fast forward to today and with Group A finalised, Cape Verde are through to the quarterfinals and had a laugh of their own in Port Elizabeth on Sunday evening following their 2-1 win over Angola.
The spirited display from the Islanders belied the fact that this is their debut campaign in the continental showpiece.
Fernando Valera and Heldon Ramos scored the goals for Lucio Antunes’ men.
Moroka Swallows coach Zeca Marques said the progression by the Islanders had not caught him by surprise.
“I believed in them because most of their players play in Portugal which is one of the best leagues in the world,” the Portuguese-born coach said.
“They are exposed to a high level of football and that’s why I think they were bound to do well.”
Marques said the other strength at the centre of Cape Verde’s progress was the “outstanding team spirit” in the camp.
“They have some wonderful morale going on and it is bearing good fruit,” he said.
This kind of team spirit, according to Marques, is similar to that which saw Zambia win last year’s edition of the tournament.
“Definitely, it’s the same kind of camaraderie in the camp that sees them dominate,” he said.
But Marques distanced himself in terms of predicting whether the Blue Sharks would reach the final. “With a bit of luck,” he said.
Marques’ opinion was not echoed by Orlando Pirates’ assistant coach Eric Tinkler, who spent six years of his career playing in Portugal.
Tinkler said they would not make it beyond the quarterfinals.
“I think their luck will dry out in the quarterfinals,” Tinkler said.