Cape Verde secured a dramatic late-victory over Mauritania to secure a spot in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals for just the second time.
A late penalty from Captain Ryan Mendes proved decisive, setting up a quarter-final clash against either Morocco or South Africa.
The closely contested match seemed destined for extra time until Cheick Elwely’s defensive lapse allowed Benchimol to capitalize, resulting in a foul by goalkeeper Babacar Niasse. In the 88th minute, Captain Mendes confidently converted the penalty, smashing it down the middle to break the deadlock.
The victory marked Cape Verde’s third win in four matches at the 2023 AFCON finals, and they will now face a formidable opponent in the quarter-finals on Saturday at 20:00 GMT.
The encounter between Cape Verde and Mauritania was characterized by energy and commitment from both teams. Despite chances on both ends, the match lacked quality, particularly in the final third.
Mauritania, playing in their first-ever Nations Cup knockout game, displayed early energy with dynamic runs from deep positions. Mendes had a chance to open the scoring after nine minutes with a delicate lob over Niasse, but it went wide.
As the first half progressed, the game became scrappy, with Lions of Chinguetti head coach Amir Abdou drawing attention with his animated presence on the sidelines. The second half saw Mauritania dominate early stages, with Aboubakary Koita and Souleymane Anne having notable chances.
As the match approached extra time, Cape Verde intensified their push for a winner. Garry Rodrigues’ powerful drive tested Niasse, and Jovane Cabral’s follow-up was blocked. Mendes, the all-time appearance holder for Cape Verde, eventually secured the victory with a calmly taken penalty, further solidifying his status as the country’s leading goalscorer.
Despite ten additional minutes, Mauritania failed to find an equalizer, allowing Cape Verde to claim their first knockout win at an AFCON tournament. The Blue Sharks will now eagerly await their opponent in the quarter-finals, prepared to continue their quest for AFCON glory.