Angola - Morocco Preview: Palancas Negras aim to make history during their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations opener

Angola face a potent Moroccan side on Saturday night following the opening match of the tournament, with the Angolans searching for their first win against the Atlas Lions

Amaro, Massunguna, Zuela, Miguel
Djelma, Kivuvu, Dede, Gilberto
Mateus, Manucho
Belakhdar, Benatia, El Adoua, Bergdich
 EL Ahmadi, Hermach
Barrada, Belhanda, Assaidi

Angola have had a strong build-up to the tournament with wins over defending champions Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda. The Palancas Negras welcomed back their talisman striker Manucho during their 2-0 win over Botswana, as well as experienced midfielder Djalma Campos.

The Angolans have been tough to break down in the final third throughout their preparations, which will be a vital aspect of their performance against the talented attacking force which Morocco possesses.

There are doubts surrounding the fitness of first-choice keeper Lama, who picked up a knock against the Zebras. However, the rest of the Angolan squad are rearing to go against the Atlas Lions, in a bid to create history by securing their first win over the North Africans.

The Moroccan coach Rachid Taoussi raised eyebrows with his decision to leave out experienced stars for the tournament in the form of Marouane Chamakh, Houssine Kharja and Adel Taarabt. But the coach has cited team performance over individual ability as his reason behind rejecting the services of his star players.

The Morrocans have lost the services of MAT Tetouan's Mehdi Namli, who broke his leg during a friendly match against local South African side Bidvest Wits. Despite concerns over the fitness of Younes Belhanda, the Montpellier midfielder will be able to play in the match on Saturday night. 

The Atlas Lions will kick-off the tournament with the knowledge that they have never been defeated by Angola and that they are considered as one of the favourites to top group A and secure a quarter-final berth. 

  • Morocco did not qualify from the first round of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, despite their tag as favourites.
  • The odds are stacked against Angola, as in the last five meetings between the sides, Palancas Negras have lost four with one 2-2 draw their only consolation.
  • Angola's Manucho is their top scorer in the 23-man squad, after netting 21 times in 38 appearances for his country.
  • Moroccan coach Rachid Taoussi has come under heavy critiscm from the Moroccan media following his decision to drop some of his star players from the final 23-man squad.
  • Angola's best result in Africa's football showpiece was a quarter-final berth during the 2008 and 2010 editions of the tournament.