Debutants Cape Verde made history when they came from a goal down to beat Angola 2-1 on Sunday in their last Africa Cup of Nations Group A fixture.
The Blue Sharks were trailing the 2010 Afcon hosts in the first half, but tactical changes in the second half by coach Luis Antunes did the trick for them to overturn the results to qualify to the knockout stages for the first time in their football history.
Substitute Heldon Ramos was the hero of the night as he capitalised on a Lama fumble and struck powerfully with his left from close range. That was the long-awaited moment for the country of 10 islands with a population of less than 600,000 to erupt into long lasting ecstasy.
The Blue Sharks had hosts South Africa to thank for drawing 2-2 with Morocco in the other group fixture.
The debutants conceded in the first half when captain Nando Neves mistakenly put the goal in his own goal. He will never forget this game for being a bitter-sweet moment as he deflected a teasing low cross from Djalma towards Amaro, who mounted pressure on the defender on the left, and eventually flicked the ball into his own post.
In a matter of two minutes, the Blue Sharks almost drew parity as Babanco curled in a wonderful free-kick, but Julio Tavares’ flicked header whistled narrowly past the post.
The first half saw more of the 2010 quarter-finalists dominating the exchanges with the debutants leaving most of the work to the ever-busy Platini to do, but his sole efforts could not yield any meaningful results for coach Luis Antunes and his charges.
Uruguay-born head coach Gustavo Ferrin of Angola would be thanking his goalkeeper Lama, who denied the debutants twice on the goal line, with two minutes into the second half, when Tavares diverted a Babanco corner towards the post. His wonderful saves kept his side in the lead throughout the game.
Former Manchester United player Manucho, who engaged in a great deal of hard work and lively exchanges with Djalma, almost doubled the lead of the Palancas Negras when he settled on the ball in the danger zone from the latter, positioned himself well and smashed a powerful low drive against the foot of the post. He was, however, flagged offside.
But then, with 10 minutes to go, Fernando Varela scored a goal when Tavares’ header was cleared off the line by Dias before Gege’s rebound was turned in on the goal line by the centre-back, sparking wild celebrations on the touchline.
The game looked settled in the last 10 minutes with Morocco leading in the other game, but drama ensued when Heldon scored. Lama, who had been spectacular throughout the night, fumbled with the ball and got into the path of the Cape Verde player who thrashed it to give his side their first ever quarter-final berth in their major outing.
The Blue Sharks qualify alongside hosts Bafana Bafana of South Africa.