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Black Antelopes coach targeting successful tournament.
Angola have set an ambitious target of a top-three finish when they make a fifth consecutive appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Uruguay-born head coach Gustavo Ferrin and his assistants told the Angolan media that national football federation officials had raised the bar after a disappointing showing at the 2012 tournament.
The Palancas Negros (Black Antelopes) beat Burkina Faso, drew with Sudan and lost to a second-string Ivory Coast side to go out on goal difference after the first round in Gabon/Equatorial Guinea.
Being pipped for second spot by Sudan was a massive setback for the Angolans, who had travelled to central Africa confident of finishing group runners-up behind title favourites Ivory Coast.
The Antelopes face what appears to be an even tougher mini-league task in South Africa against the host nation, former champions Morocco and debutants Cape Verde Islands.
Angola confront Morocco in the second half of a January 19 opening-day double-header at the 90,000-capacity Soccer City stadium on the outskirts of the sprawling Soweto township.
It is a match likely to have a major impact on the final Group A standings with the Atlas Lions also desperate to progress after a first-round exit from the previous tournament.
Local players dominate the squad and Ferrin is banking on their mental toughness, forged through years of civil war in the south-western country, to create a winning formula.
“Many Angolans have not had an easy upbringing and it is my task to turn that hardiness to our advantage,” said the coach responsible for developing many of the Uruguay stars who finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup.
He will be pinning a lot of hope on gangling striker Manucho Goncalves from Spanish La Liga outfit Real Valladolid, whose two goals within five minutes of the kick-off against Zimbabwe earned Angola a place at the finals.
Veteran goalkeeper Lama has been recalled and there could be a place for Liechtenstein-based striker Guilherme Afonso, capped twice by Switzerland at under-21 level.
Angola have competed at the Cup of Nations six times, going out after the first round four times and reaching the 2008 and 2010 quarter-finals before suffering narrow losses to Egypt and Ghana respectively.
However, African football followers will remember Angola most for their part in an amazing 2010 opening match in which they drew 4-4 with Mali at a packed Luanda stadium.
Hosting the tournament, the Antelopes were four goals ahead just 12 minutes from time only to finish the game defending desperately for a draw as Mali staged a stunning comeback.
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