Bebe on target as Cape Verde become first team through to Africa Cup of Nations last 16

Former Manchester United attacker, now playing for Rayo Vallecano in Spain, helps African minnows beat Mozambique 3-0

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Cape Verde became the first team to reach the last 16 at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Mozambique 3-0 in Abidjan on Friday.

Former Manchester United forward Bebe opened the scoring with a free-kick from 40 metres out, albeit with help from Mozambique goalkeeper Ernan Siluane, just after the half-hour mark at the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan.

It was 2-0 six minutes after half-time when captain Ryan Mendes took advantage of a defensive mistake to put his team firmly in control.

The victory was sealed in the 69th minute courtesy of a superlative strike into the top corner from outside the box by Kevin Pina.

Cape Verde's biggest ever Afcon victory leaves them on six points and means they are now certain to finish on top of Group B, after defeating Ghana 2-1 in their opening game.

It is a fantastic achievement from the Blue Sharks, ranked 73rd in the world, in a group that also contains Mohamed Salah's Egypt.

“I don't know how far we can go. Now we are into the last 16 and we just need to keep working as we have been,” said Mendes, who plays for Turkish side Fatih Karagumruk.

“We know it won't be easy but we believe in ourselves and in our work.”

Bebe, who made his Cape Verde debut in 2022 after switching international allegiance from Portugal, crashed a dipping 30-yard free-kick against the crossbar, but the former Manchester United striker was not to be denied from an even greater distance.

There appeared little danger as Bebe stood over a free-kick fully 40 yards out, but his swerving shot bamboozled Siluane who could only palm the ball into the net.

The 33-year-old winger currently plies his trade with La Liga Rayo Vallecano, having spent an unsuccessful spell with Man United early in his career when Alex Ferguson was Red Devils manager.

Mozambique caused few alarms until Witi’s tame effort straight at Vozinha, but the Mambas appeared to be handed a route back into the contest five minutes before the break.

Geny Catamo went down under a challenge from two defenders and a penalty was awarded before referee Samir Guezzaz was summoned to the VAR monitor and reversed his decision.

Mendes doubled the Blue Sharks’ advantage after 51 minutes by dispossessing the dawdling Edmilson Dove and firing home from the edge of the box.

Catamo clipped the crossbar with a curling free-kick with Mozambique’s best effort but their hopes were ended in spectacular style.

Mendes was given time and space to tee off from almost 30 metres, and his thumping drive whistled past Siluane for his 17th international goal and put the seal on a commanding performance.

Updated: January 19, 2024, 6:32 PM