Goal.com takes an in depth look at each of the 16 national teams aiming to make their mark on Africa's most popular competition
The 2013 Africa Cup of Nations is fast approaching, and the 16 teams that will be aiming to become continental champions have been decided.
The 2013 Afcon takes place from 19 January to February 10, and it is to be held in the 2010 World Cup host nation, South Africa.
History will be written on February 10 at Soccer City in Johannesburg, as the 29th Africa Cup of Nations comes to a climax and a winner is crowned.
Goal.com introduces you to the 16 teams that will be taking part in this highly-anticipated competition. Here we profile the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde.
|HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Cape Verde have participated in eight Afcon qualifying campaigns since 1994, and they have finally booked their place for the first time at the 2013 Afcon finals, after a stunning 3-2 aggregate win over four-time champions Cameroon in the second round. The Blue Sharks kicked off their campaign with a 4-0 defeat of Madagascar in the first leg of the first round, before wrapping it up to 7-1 on aggregate in Praia, fuelling hopes for a historic qualification to the showpiece, but few would have imagined the positive ending to the story with the Indomitable Lions in their path.
|THE COACH | LUCIO ANTUNES
While assisting in the senior outfit, Antunes was assuming the post of head coach of the Under-21 team, whom he led to the 2009 Lusophone Games in Lisbon, going on to win the competition. The Cape Verde football authorities believe that the coach has a great knowledge of the Island’s football following his steady rise from the youth to the senior level, and he will be required to prove as much in South Africa.
|THE CAPTAIN | FERNANDO NEVES
Fernando Neves, popularly known as Nando, joined the Cape Verde team in 2005 and has been a regular ever since, earning the captaincy in 2009 due to his calm and collected disposition and his ability to quickly settle differences between players. He has appeared in 28 games with the Blue Sharks and has been described by successive coaches as an inspirational figure within the team.
The 34-year-old centre-back began his career in 1998 at Portuguese club Amarante before joining Swiss side Grasshopper and subsequently playing in Tunisia, Qatar and Czech Republic before signing with French Ligue 2 club Chateauroux, where he currently plies his trade. Nando was a member of the Cape Verde squad that played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup qualifying campaigns.
|THE STAR PLAYER | RYAN MENDES
Ryan Mendes had his youth career at Cape Verdean club Batuque Futebol Clube before being spotted by French scouts, who linked him to Le Havre in 2008, where he spent four seasons honing his skills and scoring 19 goals in 97 games. His ability to find holes in the opposing defence and dribble his way through earned him invitations to the junior national team categories, where he represented the nation in competitions involving the U16 and U21 sides.
Mendes signed for Lille in 2012 and has been described by the coach as a player with great potential, who is goof in the air and uses body strength to shield the ball and bring it under control. He scored three goals during the 2013 Afcon qualifying and proved to be a permanent danger in front of goal across the campaign. At just 22, the winger has earned for himself a key role in the Cape Verde team and is likely to be the top attraction for local fans during the tournament.
|THE EMERGING TALENT | DJANINY
Djaniny is another reliable scorer for the Blue Sharks and widely considered in his homeland as one of the rising stars of the outfit due to his work rate as a target man each time he has featured during the qualifiers. Despite his age, the 21-year-old has earned his spot and become a vital player to coach Antunes.
Djaniny’s mission to Europe was not for football but studies, however, after exhibiting goal scoring prowess at a Portuguese regional league club Velense, where he used to play whenever he had free time from school, he was recruited by top division side U.D. Leiria at age 20, signing a three-year deal. He later joined the Benfica reserve team and was then loaned out to S.C. Olhanense, where he is yet to debut in the Primeira Liga.
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