2010 Nations Cup: Can Angola Maintain Host Countries’ Tradition?
Goal.com’s James Momanyi looks at the chances of host nation Angola in the forthcoming 2010 African Cup of Nations.
Since the first African Cup of Nations tournament was held in Sudan in 1957, host countries have failed to reach at least the semi-finals on only four occasions. In 1976, hosts Ethiopia were eliminated and knocked out in the first of two group stages. Morocco were the eventual winners after humbling Guinea in the final game. Nigeria and Egypt were the other semi-finalists.
In 1984, 1992 and 1994 the host countries again failed to make the last four. In the 26 previous stagings, the hosts have won the tournament 11 times, whilst two further home sides have been beaten finalists.
This impressive performance by the host countries begs the question; how far will this year’s hosts, Angola, go in the tournament which kicks off next Sunday? The Palancas Negras’ (Black Antelopes) past history in international tournaments can partly answer the question. They have qualified once for the World Cup, in 2006, but didn’t make it past the group stage. They have qualified four times for the continent’s premier tournament, but have never advanced beyond the quarter-final spot they achieved in the last tournament in Ghana.
If their performance at the continental or world football stage is a consideration, then Angola has a mountain to climb before making any historical imprint by the end of the 2010 CAN competition. Apart from shutting Nigeria out in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers, the Black Antelopes have been too inconsistent to warrant a place as one of the continent’s elite football teams alongside the likes of Egypt, Cameroon or Nigeria.
Nonetheless, Angola appears ready to spring a surprise in the 27th edition of the games. After being confirmed as the 2010 host, Angola, which had just emerged from a debilitating 27-year civil war, immediately hit the preparation road. Whilst other teams were sweating hard to qualify for the finals, Angola got an automatic qualification and started earlier preparations in earnest by playing in a number of friendlies. They took on both African teams and others from outside the continent, posting some reasonable results on the way.
They beat Togo 2-0 and drew with superior teams like Ghana, Senegal and Cameroon in a string of remarkable performances. On Wednesday, before the Sunday tournament kick-off against Mali, the team will play Estonia in a warm-up friendly on the Portuguese Algarve. With the expected massive home support, Palancas Negras couldn’t have dreamt for a better time to stamp their authority on the continental stage than now.
Already their main Group A opponents Algeria have shown signs of nerves, with claims that the Black Antelopes will reach to the quarters coming out of three game even before a ball has been kicked. Retired Algerian international midfielder Rabah Madjer has predicted that, as the host, Angola will start the tournament in the quarter-finals. “Angola are going to benefit from everyone’s support. Their people and their leaders, even CAF officials, won’t accept a precocious exit of the hosts. Everything will be done so that Angola will get through the group stage,” the veteran reasoned.
The anticipated multi-faceted support notwithstanding, Angola have a squad that can get the job done. Benfica’s Pedro Mantorras is one of the best strikers in the Portuguese league, former Manchester United forward Manucho, who now turns out for Real Valladolid in Spain, is as lethal as the Drogbas or Eto’os of African football. In the rearguard, Dias Caires of Sagrada Esperanca, Jamuana of Petro Atletico and Rui Marques of Leeds United will be expected to hold tight in the defence while Petro Atletico’s Davids, Al Ahli’s Gilberto and Ze Kalanga of Dinamo Bucharest may not be household names, but can close the midfield for opponents whenever duty calls.
When the draw was announced last month, Angola’s coach Manuel Jose told Al Jazeera Sport, “I am satisfied with the draw. It is a balanced group. It will not be easy. All our adversaries are known to be combative. Algeria are with us, and they are doing well currently. Mali will be a difficult competitor. We will try to get one of the first two places to qualify.” Algeria, Mali and Angola are billed as the top contenders for the two places available for qualification to the last eight. The coach may have failed to mention Malawi; but The Flames, who are the group lightweights, may well spring a surprise.
Angola’s opening match against Mali will define their group standing. A win will give them great momentum when they face Malawi in the second match, when a second victory would then guarantee them qualification to the quarters. Achieving this feat doesn’t look too difficult. The Black Antelopes will meet their waterloo at the knockout stage where, depending on the group standings, they will either meet Ivory Coast or Ghana (if they manage to elbow Togo and Burkina Faso, as anticipated). If they manage to jump this elephantine quarter-final obstacle, Angola will likely face Cameroon, Nigeria, Egypt or Tunisia in the semi-finals.
With the World Cup just around the corner, so much is at stake for five teams taking part in the Angola tournament, who will carry the African flag in South Africa together with the host. For players, it will be an opportunity to prove why they should be on a plane heading to South Africa in June. As for the other teams, it will be a chance to build their stature ahead of the global bonanza, and cultivate fear within their opponents.
The pride of being crowned 2010 African champions will bolster the continental elites Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Ivory Coast to ride roughshod over emerging sides like Mali, Gabon and hosts Angola. But these smaller footballing nations are dreaming of upsetting the apple-cart.
As for underdogs like Benin, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Togo, Zambia and Malawi; the obituary books are already out of the closet.
‘Ondo Didn’t Abandon Sunshine Queens’
Ondo State commissioner for Youth and Sports Development, Bamidele Ologun, says the state’s female football team, Sunshine Queens, has not been abandoned by the state government, The Tidesports source reports.
He said why too much has not been heard about the team in recent times was because they were relegated last season.
Sunshine Queens were relegated to the NWFL Championship last season after finishing bottom of the table in Group B with seven points from 12 matches.
Ologun maintained that the management and coaching crew of the team were working hard to ensure the 2015 Federation Cup champions returned to the Nigeria Women’s Football League.
“It’s unfortunate that the team got relegated, but relegation is part of football, we will stand with the team to return to the (NWFL).
“Since they went on relegation last year, we retained the players and also recruited fresh legs that can complement them in order to return the team to the women’s elite league. We motivate them, we did not reduce their salaries, it has always been paid regularly.
“When they complained about their hostel, we also ensured that we got them a befitting hostel to make them feel comfortable and relaxed ahead of their Championship playoffs scheduled for Abuja in the next few weeks,” he said
The NWFL Championship playoffs is scheduled for June 26 to July 3 in Abuja.
Aruna Explains Withdrawal From Lagos WTT Contender
Nigeria’s table tennis icon, Quadri Aruna, has explained why he will not participate in the upcoming World Table Tennis Contender in Lagos.
In a video post on his Instagram handle @quadriaruna on Tuesday, Aruna said the development was due to club engagements.
“Nothing is as good as playing in front of my home fans and it’s always fun getting support from them year after year.
“I am really sorry that I won’t be able to make the WTT Contender in Lagos next week due to my club engagements.
“I really hope that all of you (fans) will support my compatriots and other players participating in the Contender.
“Thank you also for the support over the years and I really hope to see all of you at the next WTT event,” he said.
Aruna lost out in the Round of 32 at the recently-concluded World Table Tennis Championship in Durban, South Africa.
He joined Fakel-Gazprom Orenburg table tennis club of Russia early in the year.
Meanwhile, the tournament is billed for Monday to June 18 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, with Nigeria presenting a 25-man contingent to compete against their foreign counterparts.
The Contender Series, which is the first in sub-Saharan Africa, will afford players the opportunity to garner ranking points in their quest to pick tickets to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Finidi Unhappy Over Draw Against Insurance
Following their 1-1 draw against Bendel Insurance on match-day three of the ongoing Nigeria Professional Football League Super 6 playoffs in Lagos, Enyimba coach, Finidi George, was dismayed by his team’s inability to move up to seven points in the title race, Tidesports source reports.
After going ahead in the early stages of the game, Enyimba were pegged back by a stubborn Insurance side on Wednesday at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Lagos as their bid for a ninth NPFL title and a return to the continent suffered a setback.
Sadiq Abubakar scored first for the People’s Elephant with a beautiful left curler, but his effort was cancelled out minutes later by Divine Nwachukwu, who headed home for Insurance.
It was the second time the eight times champions will drop points from a winning position in the playoffs.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t take the three points, but we had a good performance. I’m quite disappointed we didn’t win because we could have won it,” Finidi said after the game
“Moreover, when you play with 24 hours in between and all games at 2pm, it’s really energy sapping, so, we have to get our boys back to full fitness ahead of the two crucial games ahead.”
Enyimba’s next game is against Sunshine Stars on Friday, before facing off with champions Rivers United on Sunday.
With a win and two draws, Enyimba currently have five from a possible nine in the playoffs as the race opens up between them, Rivers United and Remo Stars.
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