18 January 2013

Angola/Morocco: Antelopes Aim for First-Time Win Over North Africans

Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images-Stanbic
Angola, in red in action in a previous Afcon tournament.

Angola will have to make history if they are to get a win in their opening 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group A match against Morocco at Soccer City in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

Kick-off for the match is at 19h00 GMT and follows the tournament opener between South Africa and Cape Verde at the same venue.

Palancas Negras (the Black Antelopes) have never before beaten the north Africans, managing just one draw in their five previous meetings, the last of which was a 2-0 defeat in Lisbon in 2009.

But both nations know the value of a fast start in a pool that will likely be hotly contested and Angola are desperate to prove that they can be a "player" on the continent and emulate the success of Cosafa rivals Zambia in the last tournament in 2012.

Their Uruguayan coach Gustavo Ferrin has developed a good team spirit and they have prospered, with some very good results in their warm-up matches.

Preparations for the tournament have been long, starting in early December, and the side have managed wins against Rwanda (1-0), Cameroon's Under-23 side (1-0), Zambia (2-0) and Botswana (2-0).

What stands out in those encounters is the lack of goals conceded, suggesting this Angolan side will be difficult to break down.

Ferrin was delighted to have star striker Manucho and midfielder Djalma Campos back for the win over Botswana, and he says they now enter the Nations Cup with confidence.

"We have seen Manucho Gonçalves playing most of the match; Djalma did his first match, he did well despite he is recovering from a lesion," Ferrin said. "This means to say that the team is physically well and prepared to face the competition with dignity."

The only question mark ahead of Saturday's clash with Morocco is over the fitness of veteran goalkeeper Lama, who picked up a knock in the victory over The Zebras.

Morocco go into the tournament having also had a good build-up, though there has been much talk over the decision of coach Rachid Taoussi to leave out experienced stars Marouane Chamakh, Houssine Kharja and Adel Taarabt.

Taoussi's reasons for their absence are various, but appear to centre on a desire to shed the egos of the team.

"Before Morocco had players of quality, now we have a team of quality," Taoussi said. "We have created a spirit in the team and a solidarity in the way we play. We are now ready to overcome the obstacles ahead of us and do much better than we did before."

Morocco were surprise first-round losers in the 2012 finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and Taoussi says they are prepared to put that disappointment behind them.

"This side is prepared to do well and our objective is to first get out of the group and then see what we can achieve. Tactically we are ready, we've been ready for a while for this tournament. We all know it is important to do well because of what happened last time."

* The Moroccans suffered an injury blow when midfielder Mehdi Namli broke his leg in a warm-up match against South African PSL side BidVest Wits.

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