Cape Verde and South Africa arrive in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals as established giant killers.
In a group containing AFCON goliaths Egypt and Ghana, the Blue Sharks progressed in first place. South Africa were less impressive in the group stages, but few will doubt their credentials after they swept aside tournament favourites Morocco in the round-of-16.
How will they match up in Yamoussoukro at 20:00 GMT today?
The case for South Africa
After progressing as runners-up from Group B, Bafana Bafana entered their round-of-16 tie as underdogs.
A 4-0 win over Namibia was the high-point of South Africa’s group campaign
Their opponents, Morocco, had entered the tournament as favourites after becoming the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final in 2022.
The Atlas Lions only enhanced their status with a strong campaign in Group F, with Azzedine Ounahi, Achraf Hakimi, and Hakim Ziyech playing starring roles.
Hakimi and Ziyech combined to score against DR Congo
As Hugo Broos’ South Africa roared to a 2-0 win on Tuesday, they did so against the odds.
It was not just that they beat Morocco, either, Bafana outplayed them.
Broos’ side were the more incisive attacking force, and Teboho Mokoena’s stunning free-kick stood in sharp contrast with Hakimi’s misfire from the penalty spot.
Hakimi struck the crossbar in the 85th minute
With the victory, a first men’s AFCON title since 1996 has gone from a distant dream to an achievable ambition.
That may bring an added level of pressure, but Broos will be hoping to build on a confident and cohesive performance against Morocco.
Attacking midfielder Themba Zwane played provider as Evidence Makgopa opened the scoring, meaning The General has now been directly involved in half of South Africa’s goals at the tournament.
Zwane’s attacking talent may get the headlines, but Bafana have now kept a clean sheet in three consecutive AFCON fixtures for the first time since 1998.
This defensive symphony is perhaps unsurprising – the back-four and goalkeeper who have remained unchanged since matchday two all ply their trade at Mamelodi Sundowns in the South African premier division.
Will they be able to stifle The Blue Sharks attack? Or will complacency creep in after a famous win?
The case for Cape Verde
The Blue Sharks’ journey at this AFCON has been of the stories of the tournament.
They became the first team to reach the knockouts after defeating Ghana and Mozambique in their opening games, and held Egypt to a draw in their final game in Group B.
Garry Rodrigues celebrates his late-winner against Ghana
Mauritania awaited them in the round-of-16 after sending Algeria packing with a 1-0 victory on the final matchday of Group D.
A late Ryan Mendes penalty allowed the Cape Verdeans to steal a 1-0 win, but they struggled to create clear-cut chances despite dominating the ball.
A combative Mauritanian defence played its part in stifling the Blue Sharks attack, but manager Pedro “Bubista” Brito may need to make some tactical adjustments.
Rayo Vallecano forward Bebé is often deployed on the wing at club-level but he has been more effective through the centre during this AFCON.
The Blue Sharks missed his directness and physicality through the middle when he drifted out to the left-flank, and his actions on the wing were hardly inspiring.
Mendes is another talismanic figure for the Blue Sharks, and the veteran winger showed poise under pressure with his powerful penalty against Mauritania.
The Cape Verdeans have also had an additional day of rest, so they may have the edge in terms of fitness.
Having made their AFCON debut against South Africa in 2013, they will hope to take another historic step into the competition with a win tonight.