Angola, Morocco out to banish bad memories
JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Angola and Morocco will try to put bad Africa Cup of Nations memories behind them Saturday when they clash in the second half of an opening-day double-header at the 2013 tournament.
Both countries went to the last edition a year ago in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea with a bottom-line target of a top-two group finish and a place in the knockout phase.
Neither succeeded, with Angola pipped on goal difference by Sudan for second place behind Ivory Coast, and Morocco beating only Niger to come third behind Gabon and Tunisia.
It was a major setback for the Angolan Black Antelopes after two successive quarter-final appearances and confirmation of the poor form of the Moroccan Atlas Lions after equally early exits from the 2006 and 2008 editions.
Morocco lifted the Africa Cup for the only time in 1976 – the last tournament in which a mini-league format was used to determine the champions – while Angola have never gone beyond the round of eight.
The popular perception is that Group A is a three-team race between Angola, Morocco and hosts South Africa, who tackle debutants Cape Verde Islands in the tournament opener at Soccer City stadium three hours earlier.
So a win for the Antelopes or the Lions would put them in a strong position after just one game to survive the first-round cull in the 22-day African football showcase.
Moroccan hopes of a successful tournament hinge heavily on Younes Belhanda, the playmaker from French champions Montpellier and a top-five finisher in the 2012 BBC African Footballer of the Year public poll.