PALANQUINHAS BACK IN THE LIMELIGHT AFTER 18-YEAR HIATUS

Angola makes a return to the final tournament of the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 18-years.

The ‘Palanquinhas’ last appearance at the eight team tournament was in 1999 in Guinea, where they failed to go past the first hurdle in Group B with Ghana, Nigeria and Mali.

But it was at the 1997 edition in Botswana that the Angolans made their bow at the cadet continental club championship. Again, they exited at the group stage despite a 3-1 win over Ghana and 1-1 draw with fellow southerners, Zimbabwe. Their only loss came at the hands of Ethiopia, 4-3.

It was therefore big news when coach Simao Coxe guided Palanquinhas to qualify for Gabon 2017 against all odds. Languinhas as Simao is fondly called steered the team to a perfect run winning all matches on the road to the final tournament.

The Angolans started the campaign at the Second Round, where they edged Mauritius over two legs 4-0 on aggregate. Next on the line was surprise packet, Comoros. A brace from each from Fernando and Melo plus a goal from Gelson handed Palanquinhas a 5-0 cushioning in Luanda before a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture in Moroni confirmed their ticket to Gabon.

Angola are housed in Group B and will faceoff holders Mali, Niger and newcomers, Tanzania.

Languinhas named his final 21-man squad from an initial 28 which began preparations in early February.

Local giants, Primeiro de Agosto has a greater share of the players, with as many as 10 players from their youth set-up. There is also Academica do Lobito forward, Francisco Carlos Chilumbo, popularly called Tombe, who was top scorer at the national U-17 Championship last January.

The entire of preparations of Palanquinhas was at home testing their readiness against local U-20 sides. Their turn out in the eight friendlies was far from encouraging; 2 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses, but Languinhas is optimistic his charges will rise up to the occasion and grab one of the four tickets at stake for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India later in the year.

The Angolans start their campaign against Niger on 15 May 2017 in Libreville, battle Tanzania three days later before squaring holders Mali on 21 May 2017 in all the Gabonese capital.

Having failed to go past the group stage in their previous two attempts, Languinhas and his team will be seeking to break the jinx in Gabon.

Source: Confederation Africaine de Football

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