'Special One' helps out Cape Verde coach

Cape Verde Islands coach Luis Antunes will have an advantage over his 15 rivals when the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations kicks off in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Anxious that his debutants do not suffer the same three-loss humiliation as Botswana and Niger in the previous tournament last year, the 46-year-old air traffic controller sought the help of Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.

The self-proclaimed "Special One" agreed that Antunes could spend one week shadowing him as he went about his work with superstars like Cristiano Ronaldo at one of the most famous football clubs in the world.

Mourinho, who has won league titles with Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, was impressed by the man who plotted the downfall of four-time champions Cameroon in a 2013 Africa Cup eliminator.

"Antunes is an intelligent coach. He has his own ideas, is well-organised, methodical and ambitious. He is a very good coach," was the glowing Mourinho assessment of the Cape Verdean.

On a sabbatical from his air traffic controller post at Nelson Mandela airport on the island of Sal since 2010, Antunes played down local media comparisons with Mourinho and Brazilian World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari.

"They are two coaches who operate on quite a different level and can draw on a different realm of experience. The comparison simply is not justified, but I would give anything to be a Mourinho or Scolari," he told reporters.

Antunes, who succeeded Portuguese Joao de Deus as coach after working with national age-limit squads, could hardly have asked for a tougher start at the premier African football competition.

South Africa in front of 90,000 hostile supporters, many blowing ear-piercing vuvuzelas (plastic horns) at Soccer City stadium in Soweto, is the task awaiting a Blue Sharks team skippered by veteran defender Nando Saturday.

But Antunes is unperturbed and has set his ambitions far higher than damage limitation in Group A against 1996 winners South Africa, former champions Morocco, and Angola.

"We are dreaming of reaching the quarter-finals and then, who knows? We might even get to the semi-finals," he says of a team containing two locals plus barely known footballers scattered across the leagues of Europe.

"It is very important to show Africa and the world a good image of the Cape Verde Islands so that people can see the amount of work we have done over the past few years."

With a population of little more than 500,000 on 10 islands 600 kilometres off the Senegalese coast, Cape Verde is the smallest country to compete at the Cup of Nations.

But the progress of the Sharks has been remarkable with the team ranked 15 in Africa and 70 in the world by FIFA this week -- higher than Morocco (17/74), Angola (19/78) and South Africa (22/85).

"Tactically speaking, we have made a lot of progress, we play well as a unit and we fight hard for each other. Everyone comes back to help out defensively," boasted Netherlands-based defender Guy Ramos.

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