Angola fired up for tilt at semis

Emotions run high as Angola prepare for 'biggest day in their history' against Ghana.

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    Jose and Angola captain Kali are aiming to reach the last four for the first time [Paul Rhys]

    The Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals kick off with champions Egypt still gunning for an unprecedented third title in a row.

    But hosts Angola have the chance to make their own piece of history before the end of the weekend.

    The Palancas Negras emerged from the shadow of the country's 27-year civil war to qualify for their first World Cup in 2006.

    Two years later, they reached the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals for the first time by finishing second to Tunisia in their group, before losing to Egypt in the knockout phase in Ghana.

    Now their coach Manuel Jose says they are on the brink of the biggest day in the nation's footballing history as they prepare to face Ghana for a place in the last four.

    'Different emotion'

    "Two years ago in Ghana was the best classification we have had but it was a different emotion because we were in another country," the 63-year-old said on Saturday.

    "Now we have all the people in Angola with us, they all want us to go to the semi-final and so this is going to be the biggest match in the Angola team's history."

    Ghana will also have emotion behind them – not least because they have not won the trophy since 1982, and went out to Cameroon in the quarters on home turf in 2008.

    Striker Andre "Dede" Ayew scored the goal against Burkina Faso that put the Black Stars through despite the exit from the squad of senior players like Michael Essien, Sulley Muntari and Stephen Appiah.

    FROM THE BLOGS
    Never tell tales on a footballer
    By Paul Rhys
    Ayew's father Abedi Pele, a three-times African Footballer of the Year winner, was a striker when the Black Stars last won the continental trophy.

    But it is with a weary look that the son answers questions about emulating his dad's achievements.

    "I grew up with that sort of thing," the 20-year-old told Al Jazeera after team training at the Estadio do Coqueiros in Luanda.

    "I have to cope with it – whether I like it or not I'm his son.

    "I'm happy and proud about what he did but I'm here to do things my way."

    Not all the emotion is for footballing reasons. The brief arrest of a Ghanaian journalist by Angolan police on Friday outside the team hotel sparked a lengthy slanging match between security personnel, reporters and members of Ghana's entourage.

    In quietly barbed language, team spokesman Randy Abbey said afterwards: "If Angola win on Sunday fair and square – which I doubt – we will pack our things and go back to our country.

    "If they lose we hope they will come to terms with it and get on with organising the tournament."

    Rage

    Fixtures

    Sunday January 24

     Angola v Ghana
     Cote d'Ivoire v Algeria

    Monday January 25

     Egypt v Cameroon
     Zambia v Nigeria

    Thursday January 28

     Winner Q/F 1 v Winner Q/F 4
     Winner Q/F 2 v Winner Q/F 3

    Saturday January 30

     3/4 playoff

    Sunday January 31

     Final

    Organisers have rebuffed claims of deliberate disruption from Ghana, while Jose took the time in Saturday's press conference to rage at press assertions that Ghana's side is young and experienced compared to Angola.

    That stems from the fact that eight of Ghana's victorious Under-20 World Cup 2009 side have travelled to play in Angola.

    Jose has a point that even Ghana's young players have a fair amount of experience, with some playing at least on the fringes for clubs such as Marseille and Inter Milan.

    But with an average age of 23-and-a-half, recovering from their first-match 3-1 defeat to Cote d'Ivoire to reach the last four would be a big achievement, especially in getting past the geriatrics of Angola (average age 26.5).

    A clash of two World Cup-bound teams sees Cote d'Ivoire take on Algeria in Cabinda on Sunday night, with the Ivorians looking to bring the trophy home for only the second time after winning in Abidjan in 1992. Algeria won for the only time two years before, again at home.

    Egypt take on Cameroon in Benguela on Monday, with Indomitable Lions midfielder Geremi saying his side are seeking "revenge" after losing the 2008 final to the Pharaohs, while Zambia take on Nigeria in the final quarter-final in Lubango.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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