|Lito Vidigal (L) embraces Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui (R) after their Group B match [AFP]
Angola coach Lito Vidigal appeared to be talking about the wrong team when he described his players as 'fantastic' and 'true champions' following their first round Nations Cup exit.
The Palancas Negras (Sable Antelopes) left a poor impression on the field and an ugly one off it as they lost out to Sudan in the race to finish second in Group B behind the Ivory Coast.
Their performance suggested that, despite the recent signing of Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo by an Angolan club, the country's football is on a downhill slope after a promising few years which saw them reach the 2006 World Cup.
"We managed to overcome all the difficulties with swagger, intelligence and effort," said Vidigal, following the 2-0 defeat to Ivory Coast which condemned his side to an early trip home.
"This was a fantastic group. They showed that they are real champions."
"I have great pride in working for Angola. We always put Angola first," said the dour Vidigal, whose media conferences
consisted of generic answers about team spirit, respect for the opposition and the importance of hard work.
It seemed difficult to work out how Vidigal had drawn his conclusions.
Angola's 600-odd travelling fans, whose trip was subsidised by their government, were among the most colourful at the
tournament and the blaring trumpets of their band brought atmosphere to their three games even when the Estadio Nuevo de Malabo was half-empty.
One group even made their way to Equatorial Guinea on motorbikes, a treacherous journey through five countries and a sea crossing.
The team were a different story.
| Angola's fans put the effort in but the same might not be said for their team [AFP]
Accused of playing anti-football by rival coach Paulo Duarte following a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in their opening game,
they used spoiling tactics throughout the campaign while their four goals came from three defensive mistakes and a
They had two players booked for time-wasting after taking a 2-1 lead against Sudan in their second game and paid the price as they were pegged back for a 2-2 draw.
Needing another point to qualify on Monday, they were utterly outclassed by an Ivorian side including nine reserves, having clearly set out to play for the point they needed.
Vidigal, who played for Angola at the 1998 Nations Cup, can claim to have steadied the Angolan ship after taking over last year, although they only qualified thanks to a late slip-up by group rivals Uganda.
However, the coach, who declined to elaborate after speaking of pre-tournament problems, was heavily criticised back home and failed to select any players from Recreativo Libolo, the Girabola (Angola league) champions.
The sting in the tail came after Monday's game when Angolan riot police marched into the interview area outside the dressing room to keep them apart from the country's journalists, who were armed with nothing more sinister than microphones and cameras.
One journalist said they were threatened with reprisals on their return home if they reported or showed footage of the