A desperate start to qualification has left Angola with little room for manoeuvre in regards to their aspirations of a sixth consecutive AFCON appearance – with maximum points in Maseru essential if the Sable Antelopes are to retain any hopes of joining January’s spectacle.
Angola’s precarious position has been caused by defeats in each of their opening two fixtures, with a potentially critical loss in Gabon – the nation percieved to be in direct competition with the Angolans for second spot – being proceeded by a mauling suffered at the hands of a sparkling Burkina Faso. To lament the Southern African’s fall down the African football spectrum, that humbling courtesy of the stallions signified a first competitive defeat in Luanda for 15 years.
Any hopes that the trip to Maseru will offer rest bite should be considered wide of the mark, given that recent history has seen Lesotho continually belittle their percieved minnow status – particularly on home soil. Having already seen off Liberia and Kenya at the Setsoto Stadium – thus sealing group stage qualification and with it the most momentous chapter of their footballing history – the Basotho came within minutes of their most substantial scalp to date, as a late Lévy Madinda goal to a degree spared Gabon’s blushes.
To an extent the Crocodiles holding Gabon has substantially boosted Angola’s qualification assignment – reeling the Panthers back in from six points adrift would have arguably been beyond the stuttering Sable Antelopes. Nonetheless Seephephe Matete’s united side are a different animal to the Lesotho sides of the past, further to that the absence of a fear factor – perhaps bred out of minimal expectations – makes the crocodiles a dangerous proposition for a side at the other end of the confidence spectrum.
Angola’s biggest concerns reside around a lack of firepower, given their last eight competitive fixtures have yielded just eight goals – a statistic made all the more alarming considering four of those strikes arrived in a World Cup qualification dead rubber with Liberia.
Lesotho are unlikely to be accommodating to Angola’s blunt attacking arsenal, accounting that in six AFCON qualifiers to date the Basotho have conceded just four goals – only one of which has arrived on their own patch.
The robust proposition presented by Lesotho should not be undervalued, nonetheless if Angola are serious regarding extending their qualification sequence – a noteworthy accomplishment in the unpredictable arena of African football – they must find a way to both negotiate their buoyant hosts and unearth a degree of attacking edge.
By Matt Carter (@Matt432)