Beating Ghana has a special flavour: Cape Verde coach

AFP , Monday 15 Jan 2024

Substitute Garry Rodrigues pounced in injury time to give Cape Verde a shock 2-1 win over four-time former champions Ghana in their opening game at the Africa Cup of Nations on Sunday.

Cape Verde s head coach Bubista is pictured before the African Cup of Nations Group B soccer match between Ghana and Cape Verde in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. AP

The Black Stars looked set to come away with a draw after Alexander Djiku headed home to cancel out a Jamiro Monteiro goal for Cape Verde at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

Majeed Ashimeru was also denied a goal for Ghana following a lengthy VAR check, but Cape Verde grabbed three points in the Group B match as Rodrigues found the net in the 92nd minute.

It was a fine victory for the island nation, who reached the knockout stage at the last AFCON, and puts them top of the section after group rivals Egypt and Mozambique drew 2-2 earlier.

"It means a lot, but the objective for any team in their opening game is to win," said Cape Verde coach Pedro 'Bubista' Brito.

"It has a special flavour because at our first AFCON in 2013 Ghana eliminated us.

"We want to show the world what we can do, that we are small but we can compete on footballing terms with all teams in Africa."

The evening was also notable for the appearance as a substitute of Andre Ayew, with the 34-year-old becoming only the third player to feature in eight editions of the competition.

He shares the record with Rigobert Song, currently coach of Cameroon, and Egyptian Ahmed Hassan.

Yet of far greater concern to Ghanaians is the result for a country whose tally of AFCON victories is bettered only by Egypt and Cameroon.

- 'Very disappointing' -

However, their last title came in 1982 and they went out of the last edition in 2022 in the group stage.

Chris Hughton's team also came here off the back of a 1-0 defeat to the Comoros in a World Cup qualifier in November, and there are doubts about their chances of making a big impact in Ivory Coast.

"We conceded a very poor goal, and hence it is a very disappointing night for us," Hughton said of Cape Verde's winner.

"We have no choice but to make sure it is a favourable result in our next game against Egypt."

Their prospects here were not helped by the fact that Mohammed Kudus, enjoying a fine season at West Ham United in the English Premier League, was missing from the line-up and not even on the bench.

Cape Verde went ahead in the 17th minute when Ghana goalkeeper Richard Ofori turned out a shot by Jovane Cabral and Monteiro, who has spent much of his career in MLS, followed in to score.

Ghana, with significant backing among the crowd of just under 12,000, thought they had equalised in the 36th minute.

Ashimeru, of Anderlecht, rifled a shot from outside the area low into the corner, just after an Antoine Semenyo cross was cleared by goalkeeper Vozinha and ricocheted back onto the woodwork off Ghana forward Ransford-Yeboah Koenigsdoerffer.

Yet the goal was ruled out following a long VAR check, with the referee apparently ruling that Koenigsdoerffer was blocking the goalkeeper's line of sight as he came back from an offside position.

Djiku headed in Jordan Ayew's delivery to make it 1-1 on 56 minutes, and Ghana then sent on Andre Ayew as well as Ernest Nuamah and Inaki Williams as they chased a winner.

Yet their defence appeared susceptible and the goal that won it for Cape Verde was a horror show for the Ghanaians, as Ofori failed to deal with a low ball into the box and Rodrigues converted to spark wild celebrations.

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