Angola coach Pedro Goncalves made history when he led the country’s under-17 side to the 2019 World Cup in Brazil.
Angola coach Pedro Goncalves says his team will “play to win” in their upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualification double-header against Ghana.
The Black Antelopes will provide former Newcastle, Brighton and Norwich boss Chris Hughton with his first competitive games in charge, having been named Ghana coach in February.
“We feel we are growing,” Goncalves told BBC Sport Africa.
“When we have had our full squad available, we have had eight matches unbeaten in a row.
“In the last 17 matches, we’ve only lost one match – and it was an absolutely unfair decision by the referee!”
Angola currently sit second in Group E, behind Ghana on goal difference having beaten Central African Republic 2-1 at home before drawing 1-1 away in Madagascar.
They now face Ghana in Kumasi before hosting them in Luanda four days later in what could be a crucial set of fixtures for both teams as they look to reach next year’s tournament in Ivory Coast.
“Our challenge right now is play to win against Ghana even if, for sure, they are the favourites of the group,” added Goncalves.
“They were one of five African nations at the World Cup and they definitely grew from that experience and strengthened with players from England and one of the better strikers from La Liga,” Goncalves said in reference to Athletic Bilbao’s Inaki Williams, who debuted for the Black Stars not long before the World Cup in Qatar.
“We know they are strong but our mentality is that if we play a better team, for sure, we will be getting better ourselves. Our mindset is ‘we like to challenge ourselves with better opponents’.
“That’s why, when we’ve played against Egypt, Gabon, South Africa and other good countries, there was never a time the opponent dominated us on the field.
“I’ve felt that even in the games where we have lost, we have had a chance to win.”
Success with Under-17s
The 47-year-old has been working in Angola for eight years after first arriving from Sporting Lisbon’s academy to help top-tier side Primeiro Agosto set up a similar academy in Luanda.
His work saw Angola ask him to take charge of the national under-17 side, who he led to the U17 World Cup in Brazil in 2019 – the first time they had qualified for the tournament in that age group.
That success saw Goncalves quickly step up to the senior team, initially on an interim basis, after the failure to qualify for the last Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Indeed, Angola have qualified for only one (2019 in Egypt) of the last four Afcons.
“We have a good chance to qualify,” the Portuguese asserted.
“We need to keep our focus in these two games to stay on course. I believe we can beat Ghana although for sure will be hard – but will be hard for Ghana to beat us too.”
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