The West African nation was ranked 184th just four years ago but such has been their majestic rise that they are now 80th having even reached position 68 last year as they shocked the continent to qualify for this year's AFCON finals.
In that steady rise they have also brought in a gem that could have easily been lost to Portugal in Santos, who is due to earn his fourth cap at Moses Mabhida Stadium after impressing in Gabon.
“This is the perfect opportunity for a tiny country like us to gain experience,” he tells KickOff.com.
“We know that South Africa is a country with the best resources on the continent which should actually be winning the AFCON all the time so this will be a test for us. They have had amazing players in the past and they have a good league. So it is really going to be tough for us yet what matters the most is that we will gain the experience that we need,” says Santos, who plays his club football in Norway for Stomsgodset.
While this has been the first time that most of his teammates get to be in South Africa for more than a day, Santos actually spent three months on trials in the Ajax Cape Town development teams over a decade ago.
After being told he didn’t meet the standards to be taken in at Ajax he then went back home spending two months, before leaving to play for Portuguese giants Benfica’s development teams. He went on to earn caps for Portugal at Under-19 and U-21 level.
From there he went on to play in the Manchester City reserve team before crossing over to Everton, Port Vale and Wigan Athletic, in between which he had stints with Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem and his current club.
Now 25 he remains grateful for the time he spent in the Mother City.
“Though it didn’t work in the end I am grateful for how I was treated by the family that the club arranged that I stay with during my time there. I actually got to come to Cape Town via an agent in Guinea-Conakry, who had contacts with the club. That experience in Cape Town laid down the path that has led me to play with a good South African player in Steven Pienaar who was my teammate at Everton and remains a good friend,” says Santos.
Today’s match kicks off at 15h00.