BENGUELA // Angola seemed to give a shrug of the shoulders yesterday after waking up to the elimination of their team from the African Cup of Nations. There were plenty of plaudits for the host side's effort despite squandering a myriad of chances in Sunday's quarter-final in Luanda, which they lost 1-0 to Ghana. "End of a dream", said the sports daily Jornal dos Desportes while the state-owned Jornal do Angola proclaimed: "Palancas fought to the end," using the nickname of the team, taken from Angola's indigenous black antelope.
The state-run Angop news agency reported there had been calm acceptance of the result across the country and yesterday both the capital Luanda and the country's second city Benguela were back to work, cars still displaying national symbols, but with little evidence of a hangover from the disappointment of the night before. But elimination against a weakened Ghana will be a blow to Angolan authorities, who spent a reported US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) on the tournament.
The figure is an estimate made by Confederation of African Football officials and reflects massive spending on four new stadiums, several hotels and kilometres of new roads in a country still battling with decaying infrastructure after a long civil war. Hosting the Cup of Nations presented a chance to highlight the rapid economic growth of the country, accelerated by its oil wealth. But with their side now elimina-ted, and the success of the event already overshadowed by the deadly attack on the Togo team bus in the enclave of Cabinda on the eve of the tournament, it now seems an expensive investment.
Angola dominates African basketball and was hoping to elevate its status in football, particularly after surprise qualification for the last World Cup. But there has been a steady decline in fortunes since the 2006 finals in Germany, leading to three coaches in as many years and early elimination from the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. After topping their group at the Cup of Nations, and with a fervent swell of support, it had been hoped Angola would go further in the tournament than their previous quarter-final appearance.
However, on Sunday the team seem to run out of ideas and could not break down a stubborn Ghana defence, accepting the inevitable and leaving the battle for Cup of Nations honours to the continent's established football powers. Meanwhile, the Togo goalkeeper Kodjovi Obilale has spoken about surviving the attack on the team bus in Cabinda on January 8 in which three people died - the bus driver, an assistant coach and a press officer. Obilale, 25, who was initially also reported as dead, had to be flown to South Africa for emergency treatment after sustaining gunshot wounds in the lower back and abdomen.
"I'm a miracle," the France-based goalkeeper told L'Equipe from Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, where he has been since the attack. "I'm alive, I'm doing well, I'm talking, eating and breathing. "I want to go back home. I want to see my children again." * Agencies