Angola can teach 'masters' a lesson

Luiz Felipe Scolari rejoins the fray here tomorrow, but the man who turned down England might be advised to tone down his notoriously volatile temper and let his Portugal team do the talking as they take on their former colony, Angola, in a Group D contest with echoes of civil war, slavery and exploitation.

After 400 years of Portuguese rule, the southern African state gained independence only 31 years ago after the army coup that ended fascist rule in Portugal. Yet until the conflict between the warring factions of the MPLA and Unita finally ended in 2002, at the cost of nearly a million lives, Angola was synonymous with slaughter rather than sport. The country is now enjoying a boom fuelled by petro-dollars and hopes to show its one-time masters that the "emerging nation" tag extends to football.

Scolari, having guided Brazil to triumph in the World Cup in 2002 and Portugal to the final of Euro 2004, should know enough about the demands of big tournaments to negotiate this unusual "derby" fixture with something to spare. Even if he is without Deco, the Barcelona playmaker, who is an injury doubt, the man known as "Big Phil" has players of the calibre of Luis Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao Sabrosa and Pauleta, who has marginalised Nuno Gomes with his scoring feats.

By contrast, the feelgood factor that should have been manifest after Angola reached the finals for the first time was absent from their mundane display in this year's African Cup of Nations, where their only victims in three matches were their fellow World Cup outsiders Togo. The squad has the advantage of experience of Portuguese football, but, with the exception of the Benfica forward Mantorras, it has tended to come with smaller regional clubs rather than the big Lisbon teams or Porto.

Marco Abreu fits that description, if not exactly neatly. A defender with Portimonese, his family fled to the colonial power in 1975 when he was a toddler, because his father, as a white man, considered his life was in danger. Abreu has never returned. "I'd prefer to have avoided Portugal," he said, acknowledging the awkwardness that comes with trying to embarrass the place you call home, "but I can do nothing about it."

He is confident there will be no repeat of the countries' match in 2001, a violent affair that was abandoned with 20 minutes left after red cards reduced Angola to seven men. Portugal were 5-1 ahead at the time, and had won the previous meeting 6-0 in 1989. Luis Oliveira Goncalves, the Angola coach, must stress the need for discipline if his team are to spring a more wholesome surprise.

Their performances in their final warm-up fixtures, an honourable 2-0 defeat by Argentina and 1-0 loss to the United States behind closed doors, both point to Goncalves putting the emphasis on being difficult to break down and trying to hurt Portugal with quick counter attacks.

Scolari, for his part, may have to cope without Deco. The Brazil-born midfielder, having reputedly stormed out of training on Thursday following an argument, sustained an injured left foot yesterday in a practice-match challenge by his compatriot Costinha.

The last time Scolari was ambushed was when door-stepping UK press men allegedly turned him against the England job (revealing surprising sensitivity for such a renowned bruiser). While Portugal should carry enough creativity for him to avoid a repeat, he will be wary of the side-show of any Angolan hostility becoming the main attraction, and mindful of France's defeat by her former colony Senegal four years ago.

Suggested Topics
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
booksChristmas comes early for wizard fans
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
filmsOculus Rift offers breathtakingly realistic simulation of zero gravity
News
news
News
peopleCampaign 'to help protect young people across the world'
Life and Style
tech

News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
i100
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker