2023 AFCON – Are 200/1 outsiders Angola on course for historic victory in Ivory Coast?

 | January 25 | 

6 mins read

AFCON trophy lift

The 2023 Africa Cup of Nations has been a tournament of shocks so far, with traditional heavyweights Ghana and Algeria already dumped out. Where the big-hitters have failed, though, several lower-ranked nations - including Angola (117 in the FIFA World Rankings) - have triumphed.

Angola were as long as 200/1 with Betfred to win the 2023 AFCON after failing to qualify for the previous edition, held in Cameroon in 2022. Despite holding Algeria to a 1-1 draw in their opening game, they were even as long as 10/1 with some bookmakers just to win Group D, which also contained Burkina Faso and Mauritania, both of whom started the competition at shorter odds to lift the trophy in Abidjan on February 11.

However, Angola made a mockery of the odds by going unbeaten in the group, beating both Mauritania (3-2) and Burkina Faso (2-0) en route to finishing first. The shocks didn’t stop there in Group D, with Algeria producing one of the all-time AFCON disasterclasses to lose their final game and finish rock-bottom on two points.

With the group stage behind them, Angola can now focus on the knockouts, with their reward for winning Group D a Saturday evening (KO 17:00) showdown with Namibia, who finished third in Group E behind Mali and South Africa.

With reigning champions Senegal - the current frontrunners to retain their title after winning all three group games - on the other side of the draw, things might be opening up even further for Angola as they bid to emulate, or even better, their previous best achievement at an AFCON, set in 2008 and 2010 when they reached the quarter-finals, and they were years without a Round-of-16 tie to tackle beforehand.

Angola 2023 AFCON Betting Odds:

  • Angola to beat Namibia in Round-of-16 @ 11/10
  • Angola to win 2023 AFCON @ 66/1

One of the most striking elements of this Angola side is just how few notable names they have within their ranks. Even the other ‘small’ footballing nations that have exceeded expectations at AFCON 2023 have players who have graced the Premier League or other big European divisions, and left a mark for one reason or another. Cape Verde have ex-Manchester United forward Bebe - now in La Liga with Rayo Vallecano - backed up ably by Ryan Mendes and Jovane Cabral, formerly of Lille and Sporting Lisbon respectively.

Equatorial Guinea, meanwhile, are led by former Middlesbrough and Birmingham City full-back Emilio Nsue, currently the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals in three games. And then there’s Mauritania with Aboubakary Koita, one of the leading marksmen in the Belgium top flight this season, and former Fulham forward Aboubakar ‘AK-27’ Kamara in reserve.

With two goals apiece in Ivory Coast so far, Mabululu and Gelson Dala can probably be pinpointed as the key men for Angola. The former is a 34-year-old striker who hadn’t played outside his homeland until a September 2021 switch to Egyptian side Al Ittihad-Alexandria, while the latter made just two appearances for Sporting Lisbon before loan spells at Rio Ave and Antalyaspor, eventually ending up in Qatar with Al-Wakrah, with whom he has enjoyed the most productive period of his career.

Seven of Angola’s players currently play in their homeland while Zito Luvombo (Cagliari) and Jeremie Bela (Clermont) are the only members of the squad plying their trade in one of Europe’s ‘Top 5’ leagues. Bela is probably the most well-known Angolan in England, on account of the three seasons he spent with Birmingham in the lower reaches of the Championship, but the 30-year-old has barely featured in Ligue 1 this term.

Angola to beat Namibia (90 mins) in Afcon Round of 16 at 11-10Suffice to say, Angola have proven to be greater than the sum of their parts, with a group of unknown players unsettling the continent’s elite. Algeria star Riyad Mahrez, a treble-winner with Manchester City last season, was kept quiet in the Black Sable Antelopes’ opening game, while Dango Ouattara (AFC Bournemouth), Bertrand Traore (Aston Villa) and co were unable to breach their defence with Burkina Faso.

The tactics employed by head coach Pedro Goncalves have been in contrast to a nation like Cape Verde, for example. Where the Blue Sharks recorded an average PPDA (Passes per Defensive Actions) of 10.1 in the group stages [The Analyst], the sixth-lowest figure in the competition, Angola’s was 12.9, the seventh-highest. PPDA is defined as how many passes a team allows the opponent before making a defensive action (tackle, interception, foul) in attacking areas (40% of the pitch away from a team's own goal and forwards), with a lower score indicating more pressing.

Of course, the data set is small, and the level of opposition can play a factor, but the indications are that Angola are a side prepared to sit off and soak up the pressure.

The importance of Gelson Dala, meanwhile, is laid bare in his shot-ending carrying statistics. Only Ivory Coast’s Seko Fofa and Algeria’s Youcef Belaili (both five) have completed more than the 27-year-old, with one of them resulting in a goal - against Mauritania.

Angola to win 2023 Afcon at 66-1Where Angola could fall down, however, is the lack of pace in their backline. Algeria’s goal came from a pass inside their own half, and while they kept a clean sheet in their final group game, Burkina Faso did get in behind on a couple of occasions.

It’s an area for Angola to improve, but no one expects them to perfect. Their efforts so far have seen them top Group D and book a Round-of-16 tie with Namibia, a nation ranked only two places higher than them in the FIFA World Rankings. The Black Sable Antelopes will fancy their chances against the Brave Warriors, whose only goal of the tournament came in their opening game against Tunisia.

Should Angola progress from there, a quarter-final tie with either Nigeria or Cameroon awaits. Neither have lit the AFCON alight so far, with the Super Eagles held by Equatorial Guinea in their opener and the Indomitable Lions only minutes away from a group-stage exit at the hands of Gambia. In a further lift to Angola spirits, reigning champions Senegal have been placed on the other side of the draw, meaning that they cannot face them until the final.

The 2021 AFCON threw up a few surprises in the knockouts, with Equatorial Guinea advancing to the quarters at the expense of Mali, and Burkina Faso riding the crest of a wave until the semis. Considering the upsets already seen in the competition, it would surely be a mistake to write off any of the sides remaining going the distance, particularly one that has topped a group after going unbeaten. Angola have certainly planted their flag in the Ivory Coast, and who can rule out the idea of it still standing in Abidjan on February 11?

Check out our AFCON Betting Tips here.

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