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The Cape Crusader

SOME saw it as the final insult for Craig Levein. Scotland being passed in the FIFA rankings by the Cape Verde Islands. The tiny group of islands has...

SOME saw it as the final insult for Craig Levein.

Scotland being passed in the FIFA rankings by the Cape Verde Islands.

The tiny group of islands has just 500,000 residents and a little-known amateur league.

But coach Luis Antunes, who worked part-time at a local airport before bossing The Blue Sharks, is proud of their achievements.

While Scotland laboured to draws against Serbia and Macedonia at Hampden, he was leading Cape Verde to a 2-0 victory over Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.

Now the islands — home to ancestors of Henrik Larsson and Patrick Vieira — have soared five places above the Scots to 51st spot.

And Antunes believes the gap would be wider if Cape Verde could match the wealth of the SFA.

Speaking exclusively to SunSport, Antunes said: “Our last victory against Cameroon was incredible.

“This result gave us a massive boost to our country.

“We have jumped up in the FIFA rankings and we have passed teams the calibre of Scotland.

“It is an incredible achievement for Cape Verde — it is hard to believe.

“Not even in our greatest dreams can you compare Cape Verde with Scotland as a country or in any level of football. It is impossible.

“Scotland has very well-known clubs like Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen or Dundee United.

“Nobody in Europe can even name a club from our country.

“We struggle every time we play abroad because there are lot of expenses to arrange.

“The FA doesn’t have a lot of money. We have to survive thanks to the donations of the local government and sponsors.

“If we had the kind of money and the facilities that Scotland have, we could be one of the best football nations in Africa.

“That is why my job is not so easy. The local players work in the morning and a year ago, I used to work also.

“My job used to be an airport controller. But then the FA negotiated with the airport company for me to take a sabbatical for a year so that I can work full time for them.”

Cape Verde didn’t play an inter-national until 1979.

But as well as Celtic legend Larsson and World Cup winner Vieira, Portugal caps Nani, Eliseu, Manuel Fernandes, Nelson Marcos and Silvestre Varela all have links to Cape Verde.

But not all the islands’ best players opt to play for other countries.

Antunes has assembled a strong squad including players from top European leagues.

He explained: “We have made some improvement as a football team. We drew 0-0 against Portugal with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani in May 2010.

“In the national team our players play for free.

“There isn’t any bonus for wins or anything. What the national team does for them is to put them on the international football map and help them to promote themselves.

“The current national team squad are playing abroad.

“International scouts are now coming here to watch games and are taking the players.

“We have ten players in Portugal, three in Holland, three in Spain, three in France, two in Cyprus and others in Romania and Hungary.

“We have two strikers playing in the Champions League.

“Ryan Mendes is at Lille and Jose Luis at Sporting Braga.

“My players play football because they love our country.”

Antunes has watched the Scottish game on satellite TV and feels sympathy for the struggles of Levein.

He added: “If you don’t have the players to play like Spain, you have to adapt to your own squad.

“Scotland have to play long, aerial balls hoping to get the second ball to harm their opponents.

“People have to have patience with Craig Levein.”

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