Team profile – Angola (group d)

At their sixth attempt, Angola have finally succeeded in qualifying for a FIFA World Cup finals. Having first lined up to compete for a place at football’s global gathering on a July night in 1984 — in the preliminary competition for Mexico 86 — the Angolan team’s longing has finally been satisfied after 21 years.

Drawn in Group 4 of the African Zone, Angola narrowly succeeded in snatching the sole ticket from beneath the noses of the all-powerful Nigerians. What is more, the manner in which ‘Professor’ Luis Oliveira Goncalves’ charges negotiated their path to Germany was marked by great team spirit and resilience.

The Angolan campaign got off to an inauspicious start, to say the least. Forced to contest a preliminary match with minnows Chad, they suffered a shock 3-1 defeat in the first leg in November 2003, the aftermath of which saw their Brazilian coach Ismael Kurtz dismissed.

In the return game, their captain Akwa led Angola to a 2-0 victory under the stewardship of new coach Goncalves. Courtesy of this win, Angola went through to the group stage, but the luck of the draw placed them in Group 4 alongside Nigeria, Algeria, Gabon, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. Their prospects did not look too rosy. From the start of the Group 4 qualifiers, however, the Angolans showed they could dominate teams at home. It was on June 18, 2005 that Angola really started to believe, when they returned from Nigeria with a precious point, a result that took them to the summit of Group 4, level on points with the Super Eagles.

Observers have been unanimous in their recognition of the crucial role played by Angolan captain Akwa. The former Benfica star may have struck just three goals during the entire campaign, but all of them proved crucial. A scorer in the preliminary round against Chad, he struck the all-important winner over Nigeria in Luanda. It was this strike that, in the final analysis, secured top spot in the group for Angola.