Afcon 2021: Cape Verde’s Roberto Lopes not overawed by Cameroon
Roberto ‘Pico’ Lopes has insisted that Cape Verde will not be overawed by taking on hosts Cameroon in their final Group A game at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Despite Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso, a win for the Blue Sharks on Monday will be enough to see them qualify for the last 16 of the tournament and even a draw may prove enough to progress
Cameroon have already qualified for the next round after their 4-1 win over Ethiopia and are now aiming to finish top of the group, but Lopes says his team have a chance of an upset.
“I think this group has shown any team can beat anyone on their day.” centre-back Lopes said.
“I know the score looks a bit flattering for Cameroon but I thought Ethiopia were good at times from the moments I saw of them.
“We will be going into the game against Cameroon confident that we need three points and confident that we can.”
The Shamrock Rovers player expects a difficult encounter even if the Indomitable Lions rest players for their meeting in Yaounde.
“No matter what Cameroon do, whether they want to change things up or stick with the same team, I know they are going to have a strong team,” the 29-year-old pointed out.
“We have to bring our best because it is a strong team in front of home crowd. I think some of the guys will be a bit low because we lost the game [against Burkina Faso] but we still have all to play for.”
Adjusting to Afcon
Dublin-born defender Lopes admits he is still getting used to playing in Africa, having spent his entire club career in the Republic of Ireland.
“First of all it is the weather. You don’t notice it during the day when you are in the hotel preparing for the game but once you get into the stadium it is like a sauna.” he said.
“The pitch is huge and it is those last 10 minutes you feel it in your legs and you really have to push especially when you are trailing in the game. It is a fantastic experience and I am enjoying every minute of it and hopefully it can continue for a bit longer.”
Lopes. who qualifies to play for Cape Verde through his father, is determined to savour his time playing at his first ever Nations Cup.
“At this level you want to be playing in front of the biggest crowds and in the biggest stadiums and this stadium is fantastic,” he enthused.
“For our first two games maybe the numbers weren’t as big, but it is still an incredible atmosphere.”
On the pitch Lopes, who wears Pico on his shirt, is an animated character and says that he always tries his best to talk to his team-mates in their own language.
“On the pitch I try and speak Creole. That is the spirit of the team and it is important I make the effort with the language, and I am trying to learn everyday,” he explained.
“It is hard to have a conversation but on the pitch I feel more comfortable and football has its own language so I try and speak Creole as much as I can on the pitch.”
Onana relaxed about Indomitable Lions defence
Meanwhile, Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana admitted he does not know much about Cape Verde ahead of their clash at the Olembe Stadium.
“In the coming days we will have more information about them and we will be ready to battle against them,” he told BBC Sport Africa. “We are going to fight for first place and the team is ready.”
Onana, who in November came back from a nine-month doping ban, has conceded the first goal in both games so far at the tournament.
However, the hosts have come back to win on both occasions, and the Ajax man is not fazed by conceding those goals.
“That’s football you know. Sometimes you concede before sometimes you concede after and it is something you cannot control,” he said.
“Football is about goals. I am so happy and proud because we showed character. We were 1-0 behind and we came back and played very well.”