Can-do at­ti­tude key for Cande

Guinea-Bis­sau not at Af­con to make up the num­bers – just ask the hosts

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER - NJABULO NGIDI

GUINEA-Bis­sau coach Barico Cande swag­gered into the Stade de l’Ami­tie’s au­di­to­rium wear­ing an ex­pres­sion­less face and the cap­tain’s arm­band.

The arm­band was a fit­ting touch to his wardrobe be­cause the Wild Dogs “cap­tain” steered the small na­tion’s ship to their first Africa Cup of Na­tions (Af­con) ap­pear­ance.

And when they seemed to have hit trou­bled wa­ters, start­ing their cam­paign against the hosts Gabon – in a group that also fea­tures four-time African cham­pi­ons Cameroon with­out hav­ing played a com­pet­i­tive match in four months – the plucky Cande still had a trick up his sleeve.

He mas­ter­minded the up­set that left the hosts stunned.

Those who crammed into the sta­dium booed the Pan­thers off the pitch af­ter the 1-1 draw.

This venue is used to up­sets. Zam­bia were crowned African cham­pi­ons here in 2012 af­ter their un­fan­cied side stunned a star-stud­ded Ivory Coast led by Di­dier Drogba.

“We al­ways said that we don’t have top class play­ers as the other teams like Gabon but we have a very strong team and a good col­lec­tive,” Cande said.

“That’s our strength. We got to this point be­cause we worked hard as a unit and never gave up. But we are not get­ting car­ried away. There is a lot that we still need to do.

“We have the am­bi­tion to go as far as pos­si­ble. We are go­ing to take this grad­u­ally, step-bystep. This isn’t the end, get­ting a draw from Gabon. We won’t stop here. We are an am­bi­tious bunch.”

Guinea-Bis­sau will be back at Stade de l’Ami­tie on Wednes­day to take on the In­domitable Lions of Cameroon (9pm SA time).

Be­fore that, Gabon will take on Burk­ina Faso (6pm).

Group A is wide open af­ter the first round of matches that both ended 1-1. That means who­ever wins on Wednes­day will have one foot in the knock­out stage.

There is huge pres­sure on Span­ish coach Jose An­to­nio Ca­ma­cho to take Gabon there. He was vis­i­ble frus­trated af­ter the match, which wasn’t helped by be­ing asked if there was con­fu­sion in the team be­cause of a lan­guage bar­rier, with him speak­ing Span­ish and the Gabonese play­ers speak­ing French.

The press con­fer­ence with both caches was a lin­guis­tic marathon. Ca­ma­cho spoke Span­ish which was trans­lated to French and then English, while Cande spoke Por­tuguese that also went through the same thing.

But what wasn’t lost in trans­la­tion was that Ca­ma­cho is feel­ing the pres­sure and his side need to de­liver against the Stal­lions, who’ll of­fer them a stronger chal­lenge than min­nows Guinea-Bis­sau.

“We had three points and we lost two of them,” Ca­ma­cho said.

“Guinea-Bis­sau never gave up and that’s the fight­ing spirit we need to have. They had a good strat­egy for us. We needed to be stronger. We lost so many balls be­cause of poor con­trol. That’s why we con­ceded that late goal.

“We will im­prove on that for the next match. We still have a good chance of go­ing through to the next round. We watched our op­po­nents and saw what is it that we need to do for our next match against Burk­ina Faso and then our last match against Cameroon.”

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