Luanda — In a final of the African Football Cup of Nations (AFCON), now taking place from January 19 in South Africa.
The race for the participation in a final of the continental football event started in 1980, but the country only reached the goal 16 years afterwards, during the 1996 edition of the Africa Cup, in South Africa.
In its quest for the AFCON, Angola missed the editions of Libya (1982), Côte d'Ivoire (1984), Egypt (1986), Morocco (1988), Algeria (1990), Senegal (1992) and Tunisia (1994).
In the debut participation, in South Africa in 1996, Angola under coach Carlos Alhinho, was in group A, along with Egypt, Cameroon and the host. It was eliminated in the first phase, following losses to Egypt (1-2), South Africa (0-1) and a draw with Cameroon (3-3).
With a team comprising mostly overseas-based players, the sable giant antelopes performed in great style, but were betrayed by the lack of experience in such competitions.
It was, however, one of Angola's best participation in a final of AFCON.
In it second participation, in Burkina Faso1998, the national team, under Portuguese coach Manuel Gomes "Neca", once again stumbled in the opening stage of the competition, following (3-3) and (0-0) draws with South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), respectively and (2-5) defeat to Côte d'Ivoire.
After the failure of Burkina Faso, Angola missed the editions of Mali (2000), Ghana/Nigeria (2002) and Tunisia (2004).
In its third participation, in 2006, in Egypt, which was its comeback into the African main football competition, a much better fare was attained. Angola, under local coach, Oliveira Gonçalves, beat Nigeria in the qualifiers for the AFCON and World Cup.
In Ghana (2008), the country's fourth participation, also under Oliveira Gonçalves, Angola made good showing their then maturing football. Based in Tamale city, the sable giant antelopes took the whole world by surprise with a pass into the quarter-finals, following victories over the almighty Senegal (3-1), and draw with South Africa (1-1).
A goalless draw with Tunisia and a 1-2 defeat to Egypt followed. However, in the encounter with Egypt, Manucho Gonçalves scored that which turned out to be one of the best goals of the competition, earning him the second best scorers position with four goals, against the first's five.
In the fifth participation in 2010, at home, under Portuguese coach Manuel José, Angola again collapsed in the quarter-finals, after a (4-4) draw with Mali that performed a volt-face from a 4-0 score in the last ten minutes of the match. A goalless draw with Algeria followed.
In the same competition, Angola beat Malawi (2-1) and lost in the quarter-finals to Ghana (0-1), in an encounter in which strikers Manucho Gonçalves and Flávio Amado failed to turn into goals the chances they had to beat the opponent keeper.
In January 2012, Angola attended an AFCON for the sixth time, four of which consecutive.
Jointly hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Angola missed the quarter-finals of the last two editions, after the giant antelopes under Angolan Lito Vidigal were ousted of the competition in the opening phase.
As a result, the sable giant antelopes were eliminated in the first phase of Malabo-based group B. Actually, Angola even beat Burkina Faso (2-1), but drew with Sudan (2-2) and lost to Côte d'Ivoire (0-2).
In the seventh edition of the AFCON, Angola will be in group B along with Morocco, South Africa and Cape Verde.