One of Africa’s smaller nations, Cape Verde Islands has a population of a little more than half a million, while its largely rocky terrain is not very conducive to football. The island country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, though strong ties still exist, with most of the national team playing their club football there, among Ricardo Gomes, who runs out for Nacional Madeira.
Gomes forms part of a side that climbed as high as first in Africa and 31st overall in last March’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, and which will also line up in the third and final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. The Blue Sharks have been drawn in a tough group and begin their campaign in October, providing FIFA.com with a timely opportunity to speak to Gomes about their chances of progressing.
“There are some solid teams in the section, such as Senegal, Burkina Faso and South Africa,” said the forward. “Every team in the World Cup qualifiers does everything it can to make it through, and we’re no exception. We’ll do what it takes to get to Russia 2018.”
Having seen Cape Verde Islands make it to the top of the Ranking in Africa, their upcoming opponents in the preliminaries will no doubt be wary of them. Their opening assignment is a trip to Dakar to take on group favourites Senegal. Looking ahead to that game, Gomes said: “The first match in Dakar will be tough, but we won’t be going there thinking we’re going to lose.
“Senegal are a quality side with top-class players who compete for big clubs,” he added. “They have a number of options in every position, but we can match them and come away with a good result.”
We all feel we can reach Russia 2018 and that’s driving us on even more.
*History in the making?
*Like everyone else, the front man believes Senegal are the team to beat in the group: “Senegal are the favourites because of their history. They’ve been to the World Cup before. We want to earn our place in history by qualifying for the very first time. We respect all our opponents but we’re not paying any attention to the predictions.”
Just like the rest of his compatriots, Gomes is a firm believer in his team: “We all feel we can reach Russia 2018 and that’s driving us on even more.”
His goal, like any player, is to run out at the World Cup: “Taking part in the biggest competition of them all is a dream for any footballer. The people of Cape Verde Islands are full of enthusiasm and they’re dreaming of seeing their team at Russia 2018.”
Though they made the 2013 and 2015 CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Cape Verde Islands were knocked out of the qualifiers for Gabon 2017 after they lost their last match, to Libya at home. A victory would have seen them progress as one of the best second-placed teams. As it was, Togo sneaked through ahead of them, an outcome that has the islanders investing all their hopes in the World Cup.
Reflecting on their unsuccessful bid to make next year’s African finals, Gomes said: “Going out in the last match was difficult to take. We wanted a place at the Cup of Nations but it wasn’t to be. What we need to do now is focus on the future and not look back. The match in Senegal is coming up and we’re aware of the responsibility on our shoulders. We have to make up for the disappointment of the African finals by qualifying for Russia 2018.”