WC participations None
WC honours None
Continental Titles COSAFA Cup (1999 and 2001)
Football shows another side of Angola
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 national 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, who had been drafted in to salvage their campaign. Courtesy of this win, Angola went through to the group stage, but the luck of the draw placed them in Group 4 alongside Nigeria - immediately most people\'s favourites to qualify - as well as Algeria, Gabon, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
Their prospects did not look too rosy, especially as the sum total of their previous exploits were two appearances at the CAF African Cup of Nations finals (South Africa 96 and Burkina Faso 98) and their 2001 CAF African U-20 Championship triumph and subsequent participation at the FIFA World Youth Championship in Argentina.
From the start of the Group 4 qualifiers, however, the Angolans showed they could dominate teams at home, a factor which was unquestionably the cornerstone of their success. The Cidadela stadium in Luanda soon acquired stronghold status, as one by one, their group rivals came unstuck, including the Nigerian Super Eagles. Courtesy of this solid domestic form, the Angolans knew that if they could garner a few good results on their travels, qualification could be theirs.
It was on 18 June 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.
Their new-found faith had already been boosted by similarly successful forays in Algeria and Gabon, although they had slumped to defeat in Zimbabwe in what proved the sole loss of the campaign. By now seasoned travellers, they turned their thoughts to their final match away to Rwanda on 8 October. Although Nigeria were resounding 5-1 winners over Zimbabwe on the same day, Angola\'s 1-0 victory in Kigali meant they clung on to top spot in the group courtesy of their advantage in head-to-head encounters against the Super Eagles. Angola had beaten Nigeria 1-0 in Luanda and drawn 1-1 in Kano.
Observers have been unanimous in their recognition of the crucial role played by Angolan captain Akwa. The former Benfica star, now plying his trade in Qatar, 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.
However, Akwa\'s place in the annals of Angolan football history is primarily assured by the imperious header he buried in the back of the Rwandan net in Kigali. The Angola team he spearheads may be a touch short on stars, but every last one of them played an important part in qualification. Key contributors like the excellent Benfica forward Mantorras, Figueirido, Joao Pereira, the twinkle-toed Maurito and Ze Kalanga can all be justifiably proud.
Furthermore, their achievements are a testament to the know-how of coach Goncalves, the \'miracle man\' of Angolan football. He secured qualification for Germany 2006 with a squad that includes a significant number of players he led to the African U-20 title and the second round of the FIFA World Youth Championship in 2001. Now, hardcore Angolan fans are calling for their saviour to be offered a lifetime contract.
Their hero on the pitch, Akwa, as well as having a nose for decisive goals, also displays quite a way with words in splendidly summing up the great Angolan adventure: 'We have proved that Angola is not just about oil, war and poverty.