LUANDA: Algeria became the first of the five World Cup qualifiers at the African Cup of Nations to taste success in a 1-0 victory over Mali on Thursday. Host Angola took a big step toward reaching the knockout phase by defeating Malawi 2-0 in the other Group A game.
The Algerians, whose opening 3-0 defeat to Malawi shocked all, bounced back with a convincing display. But they will have to beat Angola in their last group game on Monday to secure a quarter-final berth. It won’t be an easy task for Rabah Saadane’s team after
Angola’s Black Antelopes moved to first place in the standings with four points, one more than Malawi and Algeria. Mali was in last place with one point.
Angola dominated Malawi in front of a fervent, fully packed stadium, and can afford to draw with Algeria to reach the quarter-finals. “All of us believed we were going to win this match,” Angola coach Manuel Jose said. “The morale and confidence of the team were very high.”
Algeria showed a different attitude than in the opening match, as Rafik Halliche headed in the Algerians’ first goal of the tournament, deflecting Karim Ziani’s curling free kick in the 53rd minute. “Today, we played like a team and we got the result we wanted,” Algeria’s homegrown coach Saadane said. “It takes a long time to build a team of excellent players.” Algeria put pressure on the other World Cup-bound teams to deliver results. Nigeria and Cameroon lost their opening matches while Ivory Coast drew. “I congratulate Algeria for the win,” Mali coach Stephen Keshi said. “I don’t want to talk about our chances in this group. We just have to win our last game against Malawi.”
Angola delivered entertaining, attack-minded football for their buoyant home fans. Malawi withstood the pressure until just after halftime when
local hero Flavio headed in Djalma’s cross to put
his side in firm control. Malawi defender Mponda was punished a few minutes later for needlessly giving the ball to Manucho, who doubled Angola’s advantage with a well-timed shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance.