Population: 11,200,000
Area: 1,246,700 km²
Capital: Luanda
Language: Portuguese

Angola ousted favourites Nigeria for the top spot in CAF group 4. The two had identical number of points, but Angola won 2-1 on aggregate in the games between them and thus qualified for Germany.
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Jan 17 Morocco v Angola 2-2
Jan 21 Angola v Cameroon 1-3
Jan 25 Angola v Congo DR 0-0
Jan 29 Angola v Togo 3-2
Mar 01 South Korea v Angola 1-0
Apr 29 Angola v Mauritius 5-1
Apr 30 Angola v Lesotho 3-1
May 30 Argentina v Angola 2-0
Jun 02 Angola v Turkey 2-3

Participated: None
Best placing: None
Topscorer: None

Jun 11 - ANG v POR  in Cologne
Jun 16 - ANG v MEX  in Hannover
Jun 21 - ANG v IRN  in Leipzig

- Angola in Group D -
Jan Alsos: 4th place
Pierre Boisrond: 3rd place
Ruud Doevendans: 4th place
Mike Gibbons: 3rd place
Peter Goldstein: 3rd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 4th place
Felipe Santos: 4th place
PREDICTION: First round exit


by Peter Goldstein

    Luis Oliveira Gonçalves, head coach of Angola, gets the coveted Frequent Flyer Award for Germany 2006. For nearly two years he’s been heading back and forth to Europe, recruiting players for the Palancas Negras. It’s been a hard sell, as you can imagine--Angola isn’t exactly Brazil, or even Cameroon--and in truth he hasn’t been that successful. In fact, it wasn’t until the WC berth was in the bag that he landed a big fish, centerback Pedro Emanuel of FC Porto, and then found out he probably wouldn’t be eligible. Until then he was limited to obscure players on obscure teams, mostly from Portugal, some only from the second division. But guess what? Those guys qualified for the World Cup, and more famous names, like for instance the entire player pool of Nigeria, are staying home.

    In truth, Angola are a mid-level team that drew a weak group, caught a hot streak, and got lucky when the pedigree team self-destructed. But give them credit. Having upset Nigeria 1:0 in the home leg, they needed a draw on the road to clinch the tiebreaker. Big deal, you say? You bet it was. Going into the game, Nigeria had won an incredible 20 straight home WC qualifiers over 24 years. But Angola got the draw, coming from behind in the second half to boot. In the final round, they needed a win at Rwanda (where Nigeria had managed only a draw), and got that too, a 79th minute goal providing the difference. The tiebreaker sent them through.

    The man who got the winner at Rwanda was striker Fabrice Maieco, known as Akwá (Al Wakra, although he’s just quit his club). He’s the captain and talisman, the team’s all-time leader in caps and goals, a tireless and durable player who can do a little bit of everything up front. Unfortunately he had a dreadful Nations Cup in Egypt, missing chance after easy chance. It’s hard to imagine him on the bench, but if he plays down to the same level in Germany, Gonçalves will have to be ready to look elsewhere. Angola scored only 12 goals in the 10 group stage qualifiers, and absolutely need a reliable finisher.

    There are several decent candidates. Mantorras, mostly on the bench at Benfica, is the man with the pedigree; a centerforward with silky ball skills, he’s been slowed by bad knees but still has the class. Unfortunately he’s in the doghouse at the moment (he threw a tantrum over lack of playing time), and with his lack of club action, could even be left off the squad. Then there’s Flavio (Al Ahly), who had a good Nations Cup; he’s quick and clever, very creative, best in a slightly withdrawn role. Love Kabungula (AS Aviaçao), leading scorer in the last two domestic championships, is a straight-ahead powerhouse.

    A couple of young faces are in the hunt as well. Mateus Galiano (Gil Vicente), a smart team player with a little pace and good technique, was called in for the late April COSAFA Castle Cup games. He’s been idle for the last month, ineligible because of contract irregularities, but looks like a coming star. Then there’s Titi Buengo (Clermont), a tall centerforward who made the Nations Cup squad and impressed in the March friendly against South Korea.

    The midfield in the 4-4-2 is active, aggressive, good at pressing, but not overly creative. They got a major blow when Gilberto, their left-sided attacker, was ruled out with an Achilles injury. So a heavy burden will fall on the central playmaker, Figueiredo (Varzim), a twisty, hardworking little player who’s a threat on free kicks as well. But he’s a second division journeyman in Portugal, and may not have what it takes at World Cup level. The other key member of the midfield is André Makanga (Kuwait SC), the defensive anchor. At times he gets out of position, but he’s both strong and agile, a hard man who covers a lot of ground. How well he slows down the rival skill players will play a big role in the team’s success.

    The other two spots will most likely be filled by Edson (Paços de Ferreira), slow but strong, with good close control, and Mendonça (Varzim), an all-rounder who at times provides a key pass or cross. Another possibility is Maurito (Al Wahda), who also plays striker, tall, long-striding, with a powerful shot. All are natural right-footers, so whoever takes Gilberto’s place on the left will be out of position. Zé Kalanga (Petro de Luanda), a right winger with good technique, often appears as a late-game substitution.

    At the back the big story was supposed to be Pedro Emanuel, a Champions League winner, who after years of waiting for Portugal to call had thrown in his lot with the Palancas. But he’s played for the Portugal U-21’s, and unless a pending appeal is granted (very unlikely), under current regulations won’t be eligible for Angola. That leaves the centerback position uncertain. One likely starter is Kali (Barreirense)”, who reads the game well and tackles well, but is considerably short of pace. Other candidates are Jamba (AS Aviaçao), who is quick but erratic, and Lebo-Lebo (Sagrada Esperança), who is powerful but slow afoot. We might actually see three centerbacks; with good fullbacks in short supply, Gonçalves has toyed with switching from a back four to a back three.

    Part of the fullback problem is that regular left back Yamba Asha was suspended for doping violations. Gonçalves has recruited Marco Abreu (Portimonense), not a great marker but quick to the ball, and capable of a cross or two in attack. The other candidate is Delgado (Primeiro Agosto), a similar player, a bit less polished and a bit more physical. On the right, regular Jacinto (AS Aviaçao) had a poor Nations Cup, and so the job is open. Rui Marques (Leeds), Locó (AS Aviaçao), and Marco Airense (Barreirense) all provide pace and moderate skills, but none looks ready to play at top level. If Gonçalves goes to a 3-5-2, one of the fullback possibilities might play as wingback.

    The keeper is João Ricardo, who should be a media favorite this summer. That’s because he’ll be one of the very few starters at the tournament without a club. He’s 36, a Portuguese-league veteran, last seen at second-division Moreirense. Despite the inaction, he had a solid tournament in Egypt, coming off his line well and making a couple of nice saves. Probably not a match-winner, but not a liability either.

    That’s just about right for Angola. As a team, they aren’t particularly fast, or clever, or powerful, or much of anything really. But they play a high-energy game that can disrupt more talented sides. And group D is by no means a group of death. There’s Iran, who have yet to succeed at this level; Mexico, a good side but under a lot of pressure; and Portugal, famously brittle, who still haven’t advanced from the group stage without Eusebio in the lineup. The schedule works in the Palancas’ favor, with the Portugal derby first. They’re still a longshot, but if Akwá and company can somehow find their scoring boots, Angola could do a little bit of damage.




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