Before the tournament, it’s fair to say that Cape Verde were touted as the potential whipping boys of Group A. With a population of just under 500,000, they are the smallest country to ever compete in the Africa Cup of Nations but the tournament debutants gave a performance worthy of respect. Their exit to Ghana was the only loss they suffered in the tournament and at times, they looked the superior team. Much has been made of the fact that players like Manchester United winger Nani have opted against representing the Blue Sharks but with their stock on the rise, the Islanders are in for a bright future and can leave South Africa with their heads held high.
On paper, a 2-0 win over a confident Cape Verde side is a good result but watching the game, it was clear that Ghana have a lot to do if they want to secure their first Africa Cup of Nations title since 1982. The quarter-final win was kick-started by a dubious penalty but even after that, Cape Verde put the Black Stars under immense pressure and will feel hard done by. Ex-Sunderland man and captain Asamoah Gyan has only scored once in the tournament and all eyes will be on him to step up his game and produce something special to send his side into their second successive Afcon final.
The fact that South Africa were equal to Mali after 120 minutes of knock-out round football, is testament to the adventure, confidence and desire they created. These characteristics will come as scant consolation to the Bafana Bafana faithful who were dreaming of a semi-final tie against Ivory Coast or Nigeria after Siphiwe Tshabalala’s successful penalty. The penalty shoot-out in which the host nation failed to score three or their four penalty attempts echoed the fine margins apparent in the beautiful game. Had the South Africans progressed, the volume would’ve been turned down on the contingent of voices insisting any 2010 World Cup legacy has dissipated. Ultimately the Rainbow Nation, ranked 22nd in Africa, matched the third-ranked Mali until the death, and this is tribute to the spirit of the players and the fans.
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