Wednesday 11 October 2017, 08:34

Cape Verde Islands bounce back in style

  • The island nation jumps 47 places in the latest Ranking

  • Still has a chance of qualifying for Russia 2018

  • Star man Platini: “Progress is good for morale”

In terms of surface area and population, Cape Verde Islands is one of Africa’s smaller nations. Home to only half a million people, its lack of size has not prevented its national team from giving as good as they get against the continent’s strongest sides, thanks in no small part to a sizeable core of players who ply their trade in the Portuguese league.

The nation achieved its highest ever placing in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking in 2015, when they climbed to 39th overall and No1 in Africa. Though the Cape Verdeans fell short of that all-time high in September’s Ranking, they nonetheless achieved the notable feat of climbing 47 places in a single month.

They owe that impressive leap to back-to-back 2-1 defeats of South Africa in the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, though their momentum was then halted by a home defeat to Senegal last Saturday.

A remarkable rise discussed Cape Verde Islands’ spectacular climb back up the Ranking with Platini, one of their star players. “We really struggled at the start of the qualifiers, losing our opening two matches, but we’ve come back strongly,” he said. “Jumping 47 places in the World Ranking is good for our morale.”

Following defeat to Senegal and Burkina Faso, not even their most optimistic supporters expected the Cape Verdeans to get back on track in their double-header with South Africa early last month. Hosting the first of those two meetings, the islanders fell behind to a Tokelo Rantie goal on 14 minutes. A Nuno Rocha brace allowed them to come back and claim three valuable points, however, a haul they doubled in the return fixture a few days later thanks to two Garry Rodrigues goals.

Reflecting on those wins, which catapulted his side back up the World Ranking, Platini said: “We were up against quality opponents, and it wasn’t easy to go out and beat South Africa twice. We’d been working hard and you could see that on the pitch. The team is on the right course now.”

Aiming high Though a second defeat to Senegal has since checked their progress, Cape Verde Islands have not given up all hope of winning through to the world finals for the first time in their history. If they are to do that, they need the South Africans to do them a favour in their rescheduled match with the Senegalese on 10 November. If that result goes their way, then victory over Burkina Faso on the final matchday will leave the Cape Verdeans awaiting the outcome of the return match between the Senegalese and South Africans

Having scaled the African heights in 2015, Platini and his team-mates are hoping to do so again. And if they can somehow qualify for the World Cup in the process, then so much the better.

“It was amazing to be the top-ranked side in Africa,” he said by way of conclusion. “We want to string some wins together so we can bring those wonderful times back. That’s why we’re only ever happy when we win three points.”