Football Football

Angola ‘actors’ want to present different picture


MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, January 25- Angola tackle Sudan in the Africa Cup of Nations Thursday wanting to silence critics who claim they are a route-one team of Hollywood ‘actors’.

The Black Antelopes came under fire from Burkina Faso coach Paulo Duarte after his team conceded soft goals to Mateus and Manucho and lost 2-1 at the Estadio Nuevo de Malabo last weekend.

Duarte did not enjoy the long-ball tactics of the Angolans, nor the time-wasting tactics with goalkeeper Carlos suggesting he would fancy a Hollywood audition.

“Angola are a good team with good footballers, but in the second half they did not play — they just thumped long balls straight to the strikers,” said the Portuguese coach.

“In that game we had one team that wanted to play and another that did not want to play,” he added, referring to constant rhythm-disrupting injury stoppages during the second half.

While Jose ‘Lito’ Vidigal did not respond, a victory over Sudan and six points in the Group B bag ahead of a final-round showdown with hot pool favourites Ivory Coast would be the perfect answer.

What the Angolans displayed against the Burkinabe was clinical finishing with powerful close-range shooting from Mateus and former Manchester United striker Manucho.

Like the other seven losers in the first series of group games, Sudan realise another loss would almost certainly end any chance of making the knockout phase in the biennial African football showcase.

A victory is certainly long overdue for the Jediane Falcons, whose previous triumph was in the 1970 final against Ghana when the Cup of Nations was a much lower-profile competition with only eight qualifiers.

Coach Mohamed Abdallah was 16 when Sudan lifted the Cup in Khartoum, but none of the current squad captained by 34-year-old midfielder Haitham Mostafa had been born.

Sudan are alone among the 16 title challengers in fielding only local players, the majority of whom come from Omdurman giants Al Hilal and Al Merreikh.

They performed above expectations when losing 1-0 to an Ivory Coast side without a single local footballer and boasting an all-English Premier League attack of Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou of Chelsea and Gervinho of Arsenal.

Abdallah dreams that one day a Sudanese star will run out at Stamford Bridge or the Emirates Stadium and transform the Falcons into Cup of Nations title contenders rather than a side battling to make the quarter-finals.

“Sudan have been absent from the finals for a long time and now we have made two of the last three tournaments so there is progress,” said the permanently animated 58-year-old coach.

What he will hope for against Angola is more of the football Sudan displayed late in the first half after falling behind with one scoring attempt superbly saved and another rattling the crossbar.