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World Cup 2006 profile

Angola is mostly an unknown with a strong defense

Posted: Wednesday January 25, 2006 1:22PM; Updated: Tuesday May 16, 2006 11:07AM
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With a team full of players -- like Flavio -- whose names reflect Angola's colonial past, expect a showdown with Portugal to loom large.
With a team full of players -- like Flavio -- whose names reflect Angola's colonial past, expect a showdown with Portugal to loom large.

By Luis Bueno, SI.com

Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Angola. Click here for the full archive.

FIFA world ranking: No. 58.

How they qualified for Germany: Won Africa's Group 4 ahead of Nigeria. Both teams finished with 21 points and identical 6-1-3 records, but Angola went through based on head-to-head points.

Previous World Cups: None.

Manager: Luis Oliveira Goncalves, third year with team (he previously coached Angola's under-20 side to the round of 16 at the World Youth Championship in 2001).

Key players

Skipper Fabrice "Akwa" Maieco is the anchor of this budding African team. The Black Impalas' elder statesman has helped his side go from minnow to giant-slayer in a matter of years. In 68 international appearances, the 32-year-old has scored 31 goals, perhaps the most important one coming in a 1-0 win over Rwanda that sent Angola to the World Cup.

One of Angola's key players from its surprising World Youth Championship side in 2001, Pedro "Mantorras" Manuel is an untapped resource. Making just a handful of appearances due to knee injuries, Mantorras has pace and a knack for scoring goals. All he needs is to stay healthy. The Benfica-based striker played in only three World Cup qualifiers, but he did score a goal.

What to watch for

At least one African nation makes a move each World Cup, and Angola might be poised to be that team in '06. Really an unknown side, the Black Impalas have the makings of a strong African squad. Its younger crop of players, headed by Mantorras and Mendonca, helped find success at the under-20 level. Continuity has been key for Angola, as the core of that team -- including manager Goncalves -- is helping lead it to uncharted territory. If nothing else, Angola will bring a tough defense to the pitch -- its six goals allowed were the second-fewest among African sides in qualifying. A possible cause for concern: Its 12 goals scored was the lowest total of the five African finalists.

Group: D (Mexico, Iran, Portugal).

Key match in group stage: June 11 vs. Portugal. For hundreds of years, Angola was in Portuguese control. It wasn't until 1975 that Angola declared its independence, only to slip into years of civil war. Nevertheless, the Portuguese influence in Angola is as strong as it is in Brazil: A quick scan of the names on the Black Impalas' roster attests to that (Edson, João Ricardo and Flavio, to name a few). While many soccer fans likely did not make the immediate connection, Angolans don't have to reach too far back to remember life under Portuguese rule. Perhaps this is the best time to catch the Selecção. After all, the U.S. stunned Portugal four years ago in similar circumstances.

Oddsmakers' line: 400-1.

Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G João Ricardo No club
D Delgado Primero Agosto (Angola)
D Jamba AS Aviação (Angola)
D Kali FC Barreirense (Portugal)
D Lebo Lebo Sagrada Esperanca (Angola)
M Miloy InterClube (Angola)
M Mendonca Varzim (Portugal)
M Figueiredo Varzim (Portugal)
M Ze Kalanga Petro Atletico (Angola)
F Akwa No club
F Mantorras Benfica (Portugal)