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MBABANE – It is a timely boost for Sihlangu.

Cape Verde highly-rated goalkeeper, Bruno Varela, does not have International Association Football Federation (FIFA) permission to play in today’s World Cup Qualifier against Sihlangu in Mbombela, South Africa. Varela (born November 4, 1994) is a professional footballer who plies his trade for Vitória de Guimarães in Portugal. He has played for top sides that include Benfica, Vitória de Setúbal and Vitória de Guimarães in the Primeira Liga. Abroad, he played with Valladolid in Spain and Ajax in the Netherlands.  

Across all age groups, Varela earned 53 international caps for Portugal, and was part of their under-23 team at the 2016 Olympics. In October 2023, he switched allegiance to the Cape Verde national team. Born in Portugal, he got a Cape Verde national team call-up after switching allegiance but had still not been cleared to play by FIFA at the time of compiling this report. The goalkeeper had not returned to his club in Portugal by yesterday. The Victorian captain was unable to play against Angola last Thursday where Cape Verde played a goalless draw. It is certain that he will continue to be prevented from playing even today. Meanwhile, the squad is also running have a challenge of defenders. Edilson Borges ‘Diney’ and João Correia, due to a personal issue, have been allowed by the technical team to return to their respective clubs.


Information sourced from the Cape Verdean Football Association official Facebook page, was that to make up for the absences, Pedro Brito,  Bubista called on defender Nica Panduru Lopes of Associação Acadêmica Da Praia and forward Wilson Tavares of Boavista Futebol Clube da Praia. Panduru and Wilson have already met the team at the hotel and they have travelled to South Africa (SA), where Sihlangu will host the match at Mbombela Stadium. Meanwhile, Eswatini national team gaffer Dominic Kunene was earlier quoted saying, “We cannot afford to open the game against Cape Verde as they are bigger than us so you can expect same approach you saw against Libya,” Kunene said. Sihlangu was reportedly injury-free ahead of their second match today. Eswatini need to respond to the 0-1 setback suffered against Libya in the opening game of the qualifiers, last Friday. Africa has guaranteed nine qualifiers for the 2026 finals in Canada, Mexico and the United States, with all group winners booking a spot at the tournament.

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