Afcon 2023: Cape Verde 1-0 Mauritania – Ryan Mendes penalty sends Blue Sharks to quarter-finals

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A late Ryan Mendes penalty helped Cape Verde overcome Mauritania to book a place in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations for just the second time.

The game looked set for extra-time until Cheick Elwely’s careless defensive header inadvertently played in Benchimol, who was brought down by goalkeeper Babacar Niasse.

Captain Mendes did the rest, smashing his spot kick hard down the middle in the 88th minute.

The result sets up a quarter-final against either Morocco or South Africa on Saturday (20:00 GMT).

Both teams had chances in a lively and fully committed encounter, leaving everything out on the field in Abidjan – but the match ultimately lacked real quality, especially in the final third.

Playing in their first-ever Nations Cup knockout game, Mauritania looked full of energy early on, with livewire runners bursting from deep, the lustrous gold trim and numbers of their kit sparkling in the late afternoon sunshine.

But it was Mendes who nearly broke the deadlock after nine minutes, racing on to a long ball over the top and lifting a delicate lob from distance over the despairing Niasse but wide.

It would have been a stunning opener.

Cape Verde forward Ryan Mendes celebrates after scoring his team's first goal from the penalty spot during the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2023 round of 16 football match between Cape Verde and Mauritania
Cape Verde secured their third win in four matches at the 2023 Afcon finals thanks to Mendes’ (wearing 20) penalty

After the fast start, the game turned scrappy midway through the first half and it was Lions of Chinguetti head coach Amir Abdou who began catching the eye more than the players on the pitch.

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A nervous ball of energy dressed all in black, the man who also led Comoros to the last 16 in Cameroon two years ago never stopped marching back and forth in his technical area, gesticulating and barking instructions.

With most of the crowd backing Abdou’s side, Mauritania dominated the early stages of the second period.

Aboubakary Koita put a direct free-kick on to the roof of the net before Souleymane Anne wasted his team’s best chance just before the hour mark.

As Cape Verde’s defence looked to block another surging run into the penalty area, the ball fell kindly to Anne, who blazed his left-footed effort high and wide when it looked easier to score, leaving the forward lying star-shaped on the floor in disbelief.

With extra-time beckoning, and with Mauritania beginning to tire, it was the Blue Sharks who pushed hardest for a winner.

Garry Rodrigues’ powerful drive stung the palms of Niasse, parrying the ball as far as Jovane Cabral, who then saw his follow-up blocked.

From the resulting corner, Mendes’ glancing header was also well saved.

But Cape Verde’s all-time appearance holder was not to be denied, calmly converting the crucial penalty when it arrived to also extend his record as his country’s leading goalscorer.

Ten minutes were added on but Mauritania never looked like finding an equaliser, meaning Cape Verde claim their first knockout win at an Afcon.

Cape Verde forward Ryan Mendes celebrates after scoring his team's first goal from the penalty spot during the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) 2023 round of 16 football match between Cape Verde and Mauritania
Having never won more than one game at a single Afcon edition, Cape Verde have already won three times in Ivory Coast

Line-ups

Cape Verde

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Évora Dias
  • 23MoreiraSubstituted forJohnson Semedo Afonsoat 90+5′minutes
  • 5Evans Costa
  • 4Lopes
  • 8Moreira Fernandes
  • 10Monteiro Alvarenga
  • 26Gonçalves Pereira de PinaBooked at 11mins
  • 14D’Encarnação DuarteSubstituted forRocha Santosat 71′minutes
  • 20Mendes da Graça
  • 21Dias CorreiaSubstituted forMendes Rodriguesat 71′minutes
  • 7Borges CabralSubstituted forBenchimol Tavaresat 85′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2dos Santos Tavares
  • 3Monteiro Sanches Borges
  • 6Correia Andrade
  • 9Benchimol Tavares
  • 11Mendes Rodrigues
  • 12Salomão Brazão da Rosa
  • 13Pereira Fernandes
  • 16Tavares dos Santos
  • 17Johnson Semedo Afonso
  • 18Rocha Santos
  • 19Silva Teixeira Jr.
  • 24Garcia da Silva

Mauritania

Formation 4-4-1-1

  • 16NiasseBooked at 87mins
  • 20KeitaSubstituted forEl Wellyat 79′minutes
  • 21Houbeib
  • 5Ba
  • 2Diaw
  • 23AmarSubstituted forKamaraat 66′minutes
  • 8Bodda
  • 4GassamaSubstituted forFofanaat 35′minutes
  • 9TanjySubstituted forat 66′minutes
  • 19Koïta
  • 11AnneSubstituted forBaat 80′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Diaw
  • 3Abeid
  • 6Fofana
  • 7Ba
  • 10Thiam
  • 12Camara
  • 15Doukara
  • 17El Welly
  • 24N’Diaye
  • 25
  • 26Ngom
  • 27Kamara

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