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Rui Aguas on Cape Verde return, and coaching in Africa

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Former Portugal international Rui Aguas returned for a second spell in charge of the Cape Verde Islands in May, having quit in 2017 when he was not paid for some six months.

However, a change of leadership at the football federation in the former Portuguese colony has precipitated the 58-year-old ex-Benfica and FC Porto striker agreeing to take over again from Lucio Antunes.

Aguas was in charge when the Cape Verdeans participated at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Equatorial Guinea, and were unlucky to be eliminated after the first round, despite not losing a game.

His second spell started in June with a victory in a friendly against Algeria and then a draw with Andorra, and last month they drew away in Lesotho in Nations Cup qualifying.

That was the first point for the Cape Verde, who can get their 2019 Nations Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a double over Tanzania in the next days. They host the Taifa Stars in Praia on Friday, and then go to Dar-es-Salaam for the return game four days later.

Aguas spoke to KweséESPN about the two games, his ambitions for the team, and his return to the African football arena.

How much do you know about Tanzania and how easy is it for you to try and prepare to play against them, particularly as they are not a high profile team and there is not much coverage of them?
We try always to make some analysis, but we have to be creative about how we do it because we never have a chance to see them live because we don't have the financial conditions to do that. But by using the internet these days you can find enough information about any team we are play against.

Are you confident for these two games? Tanzania are by no means a powerhouse of African football ...
They are not, but Lesotho were not either and we drew against them. African teams are always difficult to beat, but we will try to concentrate and focus totally to get the victories, because we need them.

Do you see Group L with Lesotho, Tanzania and Uganda as a comfortable group for the Cape Verde to qualify from? Will you finish easily in the top two places?
At the beginning it might have seemed so, but currently the reality is different for us: one defeat and one draw and no victories up until now. This is the reality. Theoretically, before the qualifiers started, you could look at the group and be optimistic, but now not anymore.

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How does this current squad compare with the group of players you took to the Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea in 2015?
It's difficult to say. It has changed a little bit with new players, and some players getting older. It's not the same situation again, but we are trying to do our best and to connect people between themselves again, and also to try to call our supporters towards us once again.

You didn't lose a game at the 2015 finals but still rather unluckily went out in the first round ...
It was a pity, but we had some problems finding the opponents' goal! We didn't lose, but we didn't win also. We'll see if we can do better in the future.

Why has such a small country (Cape Verde's population is just over 500 000) been able to do so relatively well in recent years?
It's a bit of a mystery! They are poor people, migrant people, but very gifted in terms of football ability. For centuries, people from Cape Verde have been leaving the island to look for opportunities elsewhere, better living conditions and so also in football. The truth is that in football they have very good capacity - physically and technically. They are very interesting players to work with.

Do you think Cape Verde is capable of a going up a further notch on the African football ladder, maybe getting to a Nations Cup semifinal or final, or qualifying for the World Cup?
I believe so; we are trying to organise because we have to renew the team. We also have to organise youth development. We haven't had junior national teams before, and it's difficult to develop unless you have those strictures. We are really pushing to work on this, and there is also a lot of work now on coaching the coaches in Cape Verde to develop them and the players.

Are you excited to be back coaching in African football?
Yes, very much. Cape Verde is like my second country. I'm married to a woman from Cape Verde, a citizen, and I'm very comfortable there. I also have family there and I like the environment, the way the people like football. It's very pleasant there. African football is very different for me ... it has many problems, but a high level of talent. For example, to go to Lesotho we had to travel for 24 hours just two days before the game. You can imagine it is difficult to play well under such conditions. It's different from the reality in Europe.

Are you going to be traveling more to scout for players of Cape Verdean origin around Europe?
We do that all the time, but again through the internet ...trying to find Cape Verdeans. And also with some contacts we have in all the countries where there are (Cape Verdean) communities. But we compete for players against big national teams like Holland and Portugal and France. But we try all the time because we really need new players and we have to look forward to compete at the highest level. That's what we what."