23 January 2013

Cape Verde/Morocco: Islanders Triumph Against Atlas Lions

Photo: CAF
Morocco's Atlas Lions in action against Mozambique (file photo).

Durban — Substitute Youssef El Arabi spared Morocco blushes with a late equaliser but it was still a night of triumph for minnows Cape Verde at the African Nations Cup in Durban on Wednesday.

The Spain-based striker grabbed a 78th minute goal to end the chances of a huge upset, one that would have ranked among the biggest in tournament history.

Cape Verde, with a population of just over half a million and the smallest country ever to compete at the tournament, still have a realistic chance to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition.

Platini’s goal in the 36th minute saw the Cape Verdians take a shock lead that they kept until El Arabi finished off an Abdelaziz Barrada cross.

After coming off second best for long spells, Morocco ended the game strongly and a flashing El Arabi header from a corner almost snatched victory for the Atlas Lions in the 83rd minute.

But Cape Verde could have scored early on too when Ryan Mendes stepped up to drill a free kick past the wall, only for Morocco's goalkeeper to push the ball away two-handed before it was cleared.

However, Lamyaghri was helpless to prevent the islanders taking a shock lead on 35 minutes. As Karim El Ahmadi gave away possession in midfield, Mendes burst forward and Platini chipped a perfectly-timed pass into the net.

Younes Belhanda was yellow-carded for going into a tackle with his studs showing, and his second caution of the tournament meant an automatic one-match suspension.

He was taken off shortly after as the disaffected Moroccans showed little sign of being able to fight back.

But they got the breakthrough when Barrada darted down the right and cut the ball back for El Arabi to score with a right-footed shot that gave goalkeeper Vozinho no chance.

Still, there was much satisfaction for the Cape Verdians: “It’s a night to congratulate Cape Verde football, a big night for our country,” said coach Lucio Antunes. “We showed we have great players just like South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast.”

The point they earned adds to the one they picked up by holding hosts South Africa in the opening game and allows them to dream of a place in the knockout stage if they beat, or even draw with, Angola in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

South Africa lead the group after beating Angola 2-0 in Wednesday’s earlier game. They have four points; Cape Verde and Morocco two and Angola one with a round to go.

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