SHAMROCK Rovers man Roberto Lopes is ready for another step up as his Cape Verde side look to build on an opening-night win in the African Cup of Nations finals.
he Dubliner, who played at youth level for the Republic of Ireland but declared for Cape Verde through his father and helped the small nation qualify for the finals in Cameroon, started in defence as they beat Ethiopia 1-0, teeing them up to face Burkina Faso on Thursday, as Cape Verde coped with a series of Covid issues which saw key players and even their coach test positive.
“I’m chuffed to play my first game in the African Cup of Nations, it’s a special moment for me and to kick it off with a win, I don’t think you could have asked for a better start. Our performance could have been a bit better but the most important thing was the three points and we’re delighted to get that on board. Ethiopia really impressed me and I thought our performance with the ball could have been better, their use of the ball was very good but they didn’t have that killer instinct, they were a man down so it was hard to create chances, they were never out of the game,” Lopes told SRFC TV, his club’s TV channel.
“The win has settled our nerves but we know that the opposition now will be a lot tougher, I didn’t know too much about Burkina Faso coming into it, I just knew they were dark horses from previous tournaments and they will be strong, they took the lead against Cameroon and it will be a tough game, so we can’t get carried away with our victory.
“The last two nights the nerves kicked in but I had a moment to myself to say I don’t just want to be a part of it, I want to come here and get stuck into the game and the most important thing was to get the three points so I had to put that to one side,” he added, Lopes hopeful that their Covid issues can ease.
“Covid has absolutely stricken our team, I am sure we’re not the only ones, it was always going to be a feature of this tournament, missing players at certain times so we have to prepare, mentally more than anything else, there’s nothing you can do when you are missing players, you just have to use the players you have. Throughout our campaign we have had 19 positive cases but hopefully we’ll get more players back for the next game and hopefully no new negative cases,” he said.