Ivory Coast and Angola in top-of-table showdown

30 January 2012 01:16

The seven goals scored by Ivory Coast and Angola in a previous Africa Cup of Nations encounter is not likely to be repeated when they meet Monday at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo.

Although blessed with some of the best strikers on the continent in captain Didier Drogba, Chelsea team-mate Salomon Kalou and Gervinho of Arsenal, coach Francois Zahoui says success is far more important than putting on a show.

"My mission is to bring the trophy back to Abidjan," he told reporters in the Equatorial Guinea capital. "I do not care if winning means scoring from a corner in the final minute."

Angola were accused of "anti-football" by opponents Burkina Faso after beating them with route-one tactics and persistent time-wasting, angering coach Paulo Duarte.

"The type of football we played against Burkina Faso was for a purpose. My players carried out instructions perfectly," countered Angola coach Jose 'Lito' Vidigal.

Entering the final series of Group B fixtures here and in mainland city Bata, Ivory Coast have six points from two outings, Angola four, Sudan one and Burkina Faso are out of the running following a couple of losses.

Ivory Coast are assured of competing in the knockout stages, but whether they advance as group winners or runners-up depends on the outcome against Angola with a draw sufficient to seal top place.

That would keep them the at the plush accommodation they have here with a private beach and golf club, and give them a quarter-final fixture on the Malabo pitch where they have played all their pool matches.

Angola can finish top with a win, qualify with a draw, or possibly go out on goal difference if they lose and Sudan defeat Burkina Faso in a match scheduled to be staged simultaneously at Estadio de Bata.

While Ivory Coast must carry the burden of tournament favourites with nothing less than victory in the final next month acceptable to Abidjan, getting to the quarter-finals is the bottom line for Angola with any further progress a bonus.

Although lacking the array of attacking talent the Ivorians boast, Angola have one of the leading scorers in the competitiion this year in three-goal former Manchester United striker Manucho.

He was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson on the strength of outstanding displays at the 2008 Cup of Nations in Ghana, but failed to make the grade at Old Trafford and now plays for Turkish club Manisaspor.

Manucho -- full name Mateus Alberto Contreiras Goncavles -- has been back to his opportunist best this month, scoring the winner against Burkina Faso and both goals in a draw with Sudan.

While Ivorian supporters are likely to outnumber Angolans in the 15,000-seat stadium, the Antelopes can count on the backing of some of the most dedicated football followers on the continent.

A 10-man group has travelled through five countries on motorbikes to reach Malabo, but work commitments mean they will have to return home after the final group game while hoping their team can stay at lot longer.

Source: AFP