x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Angola wary of prospect of facing Ivory Coast's reserves

The Angola coach is concerned he will not know much about any reserve players Ivory Coast bring in for their Group B clash.

Lito Vidigal said his Angola side would treat their final Group B clash with the Ivory Coast tonight as a 'final' as they look to qualify.
Lito Vidigal said his Angola side would treat their final Group B clash with the Ivory Coast tonight as a 'final' as they look to qualify.

Lito Vidigal, the Angola coach, says he does not believe it will be all good news for his side if Ivory Coast rest some of their star players for tonight's final African Cup of Nations Group B clash in Malabo.

Ivory Coast, the tournament favourites, have already secured their berth in the quarter-finals after winning their opening two group matches, but the other qualifying spot in the group is up for grabs and Angola, who need only a point, will be hoping they can secure it.

Angola are second on four points, three above Sudan, who face eliminated Burkina Faso in their final pool match tonight.

With a top-two spot already secured, Ivory Coast could ring the changes, but, according to Vidigal, that may not be the advantage it seems for Angola. As well as being more familiar with the Ivory Coast's first-choice side, he said whoever is brought into the team "will want to show what they can do and prove to the coach that they can get into the first XI".

Vidigal added about the game: "We will treat it like a final, playing to win. We depend only on ourselves to get through."

Even if Angola slip up against Ivory Coast they could still go through if Burkina Faso prevent Sudan from winning.

Ivory Coast only need a point to claim top spot in Group B but Francois Zahoui, the coach, insists his side will be going out for all three no matter what their starting line-up looks like.

"Our goal is to finish first in the group, we want to keep our winning sequence going," he said. "Even if we make changes, we will do everything to win the game."

Salomon Kalou scored the opening goal in Ivory Coast's 2-0 win over Burkina Faso last time out but he limped off in the second half with what looked like a hamstring injury.

However, Zahoui said the problem was not as bad as first feared:

"The news is reassuring, we hope to have him available for the rest of the competition," he said.

If Angola lose tonight it could open the door for Sudan to take second spot in the group.

Mohamed Abdalla, the Sudan coach, wants his side to go for it from the start after they came from behind to draw 2-2 with Angola in their last game.

"I think we are improving," he said. "To survive in this competition you have to win, so we played more offensive."

While Abdalla is trying to plot a course for survival in this tournament, Paulo Duarte, his opposite number, is battling for his job, having revealed a dispute with the Burkino Faso football federation.

The Portuguese coach saw the hopes of his side ended with a 2-0 defeat to Ivory Coast, and then hit out at the way the federation had handled nationality issues, denying him the services of players like Cameroon-born Herve Zengue, Ivory Coast-born Stephane Agbre and Abdou Razak Traore.

"If the federation don't change, I go," he told BBC Sport. "I started this Nations Cup without starters because I had problems with passports and other things. In professional football, this is not possible."