The Angolan National team, nicknamed Palancas Negras, prides itself for being adjudged the 45th best team globally by the FIFA monthly ranking in July, 2002.
The Palancas Negras’ greatest accomplishment was qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where they played as debutants in the competition held in Germany. The team was however, eliminated after one defeat and two draws in the group stage.
Angola began the race for participation at final of the continental football showpiece in 1980, but only reached their goal 16 years afterwards, during the 1996 edition of the Africa Cup, in South Africa.
Having missed the editions of Libya (1982), Côte d’Ivoire (1984), Egypt (1986), Morocco (1988), Algeria (1990), Senegal (1992) and Tunisia (1994), in South Africa (1996), Angola was elated to have finally joined the continental party.
Coached by Carlos Alhinho, the Palancas Negras, pitted in group A, alongside Egypt, Cameroon and the host were eliminated in the first round, following defeats to Egypt (1-2), South Africa (0-1) and a draw with Cameroon (3-3).
Though the team went home early, history tells a smooth story about how and why till date their output as debutants remains their best participation ever.
Two years on, Angola answered the roll call in Burkina Faso (1998), with Portuguese trainer, Manuel Gomes, only to stumble yet again in the opening stage of the competition, following (3-3) and (0-0) draws with South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), respectively and (2-5) defeat to Côte d’Ivoire.
Angola however missed the three ensuing editions in Mali (2000), Ghana/Nigeria (2002) and Tunisia (2004) before finally returning in Egypt (2006), this time with a local trainer, Oliveira Gonçalves, who had supervised a fine win over Nigeria in the qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup.
The Palancas Nagras built on that good spell and made it to Ghana (2008), their fourth participation, also under Oliveira Gonçalves. Signalling an era of maturity, the team forced the pundits to rewrite the script by making it into the last eight.
Angola welcomed the rest of Africa in 2010 as host of the Africa Cup of Nations. In their open game, they drew 4–4 in an eight-goal thriller with Mali, after letting a 4–0 lead slip in the last 11 minutes (including three goals in stoppage time).
The team recovered well to defeat Malawi 2–0 in the second match, and topped the group by drawing 0–0 with Algeria only to be knocked out in the quarter final after a 1–0 defeat by eventual finalists Ghana.
Angola is housed in Group A alongside host, South Africa, Cape Verde and Morocco in the January 19-February 10 tourney. GNA