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AFCON 2023 Round of 16 Preview: Cape Verde vs Mauritania

Two more spots in the quarterfinals of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations are up for grabs on Monday and the first match features Cape Verde against Mauritania. Cape Verde are looking for only their second ever appearance in the final eight after previously reaching this stage at the 2013 edition while Mauritania are through to the knockout stages for the first time in their history. Read more below on two teams who have an opportunity to continue unlikely runs in Ivory Coast:

Cape Verde vs Mauritania- 17:00 GMT

Cape Verde

Cape Verde forward Bebé has a flair for the spectacular which could make a difference for the Blue Sharks in the knockout stages

Cape Verde emerged as one of the darlings of the group stage, winning Group B with a combination of resilient defense and plenty of entertainment in the attack. Head coach Bubista showed admiration for Mauritania’s victory over Algeria and described Monday’s clash as “a very tactical encounter”. There are no reported injuries or suspensions for the Blue Sharks team after resting the majority of their starters in the Group B finale against Egypt.

In defense, goalkeeper Vozinha is set to make his fourteenth AFCON appearance and has a combination of experience and youth ahead of him in the defensive line. Irish-born central defender Roberto “Pico” Lopes has a physical style and “no nonsense” approach that pairs well with French-born Logan Costa who has athleticism and is a rising talent with club Toulouse. Steven Moreira is strong both in his defending and attacking duties at the right back position and Kevin Pina is a tenacious presence in the defensive midfield.

Ahead of Pina in the center of the midfield, Jamiro Monteiro acts as the connection from midfield to attack and offers plenty of technique that helps on set piece and corner kick deliveries. The three-man attacking line is where Cape Verde is the most dangerous. Bebé has a brilliant strike from distance and creativity that compliments the pace and direct style of captain Ryan Mendes and either Garry Rodrigues or Jovane Cabral. The forwards can all move to either wing or operate centrally according to what coach Bubista desires.

Mauritania

Towering Mauritania goalkeeper Babacar Niasse was the Man of the Match in Mauritania’s historic victory over Algeria and will need to continue his fine form on Monday

Following group stage exits at their first two AFCON appearances in 2019 and 2021, the goal for Mauritania was always to reach the knockout stages and coach Amir Abdou and his team achieved it in dramatic circumstances. A victory over 2019 champions Algeria was the cherry on top in a tournament filled with upsets and now Les Mourabitounes have achieved their goal. After also posing stern challenges to Burkina Faso and Angola in Group D, Mauritania have plenty of reason to continue dreaming of a deep run.

Striker Aboubakar Kamara gets most of the attention for Mauritania but the real scoring threat is Aboubakary Koita who successfully carried his strong club form from Belgian football to Ivory Coast. Koita will operate on the left wing and cut in to cause trouble with his fierce shot while domestic-based Sidi Bouna Amar is a player that Abdou knows well from his time coaching Mauritanian club champions FC Nouadhibou. It appears that Idrissa Thiam has earned his way into the eleven as a central attacking presence and FC Nouadhibou player Bodda Mouhsine will operate in the middle of the park.

Goalkeeper Babacar Niasse was crucial against Algeria and it was always important for the 27-year-old to perform well for Mauritania to have any success. Central defender Lamine Ba is the constant in the heart of the defense while Ibrahima Keita and Namori Diaw are talented fullbacks who are currently competing in the CAF Champions League with DR Congo’s TP Mazembe and Sudan’s Al-Hilal Omdurman. Omaré Gassama will be the screen in front of the defensive line as a defensive midfielder.

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