Cape Verde ‘a tougher game than against Morocco’: Bafana’s 1996 captain Tovey


South Africa's defender #20 Khuliso Johnson Mudau, South Africa's forward #10 Percy Tau, South Africa's midfielder #4 Teboho Mokoena and South Africa's goalkeeper #1 Ronwen Williams leave the field after South Africa won the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2024 group E football match between South Africa and Namibia at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo on January 21, 2024.

Verde are not even ranked as high as Bafana Bafana, but former South Africa internationals have cautioned that the islanders, in Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations quarterfinal, could on form be a tougher prospect than Morocco.

On paper, in pedigree and national strength of football Africa’s top-ranked and the word’s 13-ranked team Morocco, who Bafana shocked 2-0 in the last 16 in San Pedro, Ivory Coast on Tuesday night, are a far more intimidating prospect than Cape Verde Islands.

Cape Verde (73rd in the world and 14th in Africa) are ranked lower than Bafana (66th and 12th).

But there are reasons to believe the quarterfinal clash at Stade Charles Konan Banny in Yamoussoukro (10pm, SA time) could be as challenging a prospect, or even tougher, than meeting coach Walid Regragoui’s 2022 World Cup semifinalists Morocco.

Cape Verde beat Ghana (2-1) and Mozambique (3-0) and drew against Egypt (2-2) to convincingly top a tough Group B in Ivory Coast. They edged stubborn Mauritania in the last 16.

With a population of only 600,000, the West African island nation — who have developed their national team’s competitiveness largely by sourcing players based in Europe, and mostly Portugal, who they could naturalise — are hungry for a first Nations Cup victory, or a place in the semis or final at least.

Bafana have also had a tendency in recent years of pulling off sporadic stunning results against big name opposition, but not for consistency or maintaining concentration levels against lesser reputation sides.

It is a deficiency South Africa’s 1996 Nations Cup-winning captain Neil Tovey worries about.

“The biggest challenge Bafana have now is getting around [that it’s] Cape Verde,” Tovey told TimesLIVE.

“In the other games it’s sort of been, ‘How are Bafana going to do [against strong teams]?’ Whereas now everybody is saying, ‘Ah well, Cape Verde, population 500,000 or whatever’ and expecting them [to do well], but this is going to be a tougher game than against Morocco.

“Because you go into that game [against Morocco] and if you do lose it, there wasn’t going to be as much said as if you lose against Cape Verde.

“It’s about how Bafana go into the game and forget about what everyone else is talking about, go in there with the same attitude like it’s a Nigeria, Morocco or Egypt. Then they will start off on a good note.

“I’m concerned because I’ve always questioned our team’s mentality.”

Tovey said Cape Verde’s hunger for success makes them dangerous.

“And you can’t look at them as Cape Verde because all their players are playing in Portugal and the like — imported players. So they’re going to be a tough unit to crack.”

Another former Bafana international and Kaizer Chiefs star, David Modise, believes Bafana will beat the Blue Sharks, but he also has concerns.

“It’s a tough one in terms of the level Cape Verde are playing at,” he said.

“It’s going to be an interesting game. Don’t forget we’ve got the skill and they’ve got the skill, we’ve got the speed and they’ve got the speed, but they have more power than us in terms of the aggression of winning the ball.

“ I would say we are similar to them. Though probably they have more experience playing in Portugal, where most of them grew up.

“But I think this is going to be the game that’s better for us in terms of play, because we are going to meet a team that is not strategic and disciplined in terms of their defence. They are a team that attacks. And that will also give us options to attack.

“But it’s a tough game. Both are underdogs. Neither is among those top teams who expect to win the Afcon, the giants like Morocco, Egypt and Senegal. Those teams are out.

“It is now going to be anyone’s tournament, so I think we’ve got a chance.

“Once we beat the team [Cape Verde], which is going to be a tricky one.

“This team has the same attitude we have, but they are more physical than us and they attack the space quicker.”

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