Angola grapple with wounded Stallions

AFP, Sunday 22 Jan 2012

Highly rated Burkina Faso go into their Group B Africa Cup of Nations curtain raiser with Angola motivated by a deep sense of injustice

Angola National team
Angola National football team

Coach Paulo Duarte launched a scathing attack on the treatment meted out to his team since their arrival, claiming competition organisers CAF had treated them shabbily compared to the Angolans and group favourites Ivory Coast.

"They are protected. Everyone here is not working in the same conditions," the Portuguese said.

"Some teams have journeys of 10 or 15 minutes to get to training, while we have to travel for one hour along a winding road to have a session (in Luba, 50 kilometres from their team hotel in Malabo)."

Duarte added: "When we arrived here, they gave us a restaurant/cafe to sleep in. It wasn't even a hotel. There was no video room, no conference room. Each time we have to improvise. That's what the Nations Cup is like."

His criticisms, roundly rejected by CAF, will inevitably act as a spur for the Stallions who are seeking their first Nations Cup win in 14 years and over five hours of football.

With Ivory Coast red hot favourites to top the table Monday's game is being billed as a face-off for second place and a potential quarter-final match-up against possibly Senegal.

Duarte described the night-time encounter on the Equatoguinean island capital as "decisive" for their 2012 Cup fate.

"We've inherited a difficult group with Ivory Coast and Angola. You can say that the Ivorians will qualify so this is a very important match for second place.

"The team which wins the first match will have done 80 percent of the work. But my problem is not our rivals, nor the group. Too many of our regular players couldn't make it."

Alain Traore is a key cog, the midfielder having scored seven goals for his French club Auxerre this season, and four for his country in qualifying.

Burkina Faso have only reached the knockout stages once, when they hosted the Cup in 1998, eventually finishing fourth.

Competing in Nigeria, Mali, Tunisia and Angola (where they failed to score) since, the west Africans have drawn six matches and lost eight.

No squad turned up with broader smiles than Burkina Faso after enduring months of anxiety when Namibia claimed Cameroon-born left-back Herve Zengue was ineligible.

Namibia, last behind Burkina Faso and Gambia in a qualifying group, appealed twice to CAF and also to CAS—the Switzerland-based supreme court of sport—before accepting defeat.

Angola represent stiff opposition, with coach Lito Vidigal identifying a last eight berth as the bottom line, having appeared in the quarter-finals in 2008 and 2010.

Vidigal's appointment was vindicated when he guided them to second place in the 2011 African Nations Championship.

Angola's rock solid defence is led by Carlos 'Kali' Alonso with skipper Andre Makanga marshalling the midfield while Flavio Amado's runs down the wing and former Manchester United striker Manucho's presence up front are set to make life uncomfortable for Burkina Faso.

Manucho and Amado were on the mark in Angola's 3-1 warm-up win over Sierra Leone last weekend.

Angola left it late to clamber aboard the Cup train, edging out Uganda for second place with a 2-0 win away to Guinea-Bissau in their closing qualifier.

This is the first time Angola have played Burkina Faso in the continental showpiece - both sides are hoping it will be an occasion to remember.

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