AFCON 2023: Ryan Mendes’ late penalty propels Cape Verde to quarterfinals


Cape Verde etched their name in African football history as they secured a spot in the quarterfinals of the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) for the first time ever after narrowly edging out Mauritania 1-0 on Monday.

The Blue Sharks faced a resilient challenge from West African neighbors Mauritania, but it was Ryan Mendes’ 88th-minute penalty that proved to be the decisive moment in a fiercely contested match in Abidjan.

Having already secured the top spot in Group B with a game to spare, manager Bubista strategically rested key players against Egypt to ensure peak performance in this crucial encounter.

The match unfolded under stifling conditions, with both teams showing determination in their first-ever AFCON knockout match.

Mendes, Cape Verde’s all-time leading scorer, was a constant threat early on, seeing a shot blocked and narrowly missing an audacious lob. Mauritania pressed relentlessly, but it was Cape Verde who had the more promising attacks, with Mendes thwarted by a resilient defense.

The second half brought more intensity as Jovane Cabral forced a save from Mauritanian goalkeeper Babacar Niasse. The introduction of substitutes on both sides added to the drama, with Garry Rodrigues testing Niasse with a fierce drive.

In the 88th minute, Niasse’s unfortunate error led to a penalty for Cape Verde, and Mendes stepped up to deliver a clinical finish, securing their historic victory.

Despite Mauritania’s tenacious efforts in stoppage time, Cape Verde held firm, sealing their place in the quarterfinals.

Their next challenge awaits against either Morocco or South Africa in Yamoussoukro on Saturday, as Cape Verde continues to make waves in their AFCON journey.

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