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Angola v Morocco

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Belhanda: Not just a playmaker

Belhanda: Not just a playmaker

Angola take on Morocco in the second match of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations at the majestic National Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday night.

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Morocco have the psychological advantage over Angola, whom they have beaten four times out of five meetings, with a 2-2 draw being Angola's best result against the North Africans.

The Atlas Lions are also desperate to shrug off last year's disappointing AFCON which they exited after the group stage.They will also face Cape Verde and hosts South Africa, who make up the rest of Group A.

Moroccan coach Rachid Taoussi came under considerable scrutiny for excluding Arsenal forward Marouane Chamakh, Houssine Kharja and Queens Park Rangers' Adel Taarabt for his 23-man squad, citing that he needs team players and not individual stars.

Nevertheless, he can rely on Montpellier midfielder Younes Belhanda, Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi and Getafe playmaker Abdelaziz Barrada for creativity in attack.

"A national team is made up of players who don't get together often and I want to find cohesiveness in the team, it's very important," the tactician said.

"We've still got work to do to get this team ready. I have all the weapons on the psychological front to overcome the obstacle of players who have never played in the competition before but who are capable of producing a good Nations Cup.

"I'm a man who loves a challenge, I like to call on players who are thirsty, who are hungry. When D-Day arrives, we'll be ready," Taoussi said.

Moroccan defender Mehdi Namli will miss the AFCON after sustaining an injury in a pre-tournament game against Bidvest Wits earlier this week.

Palancas Negras, meanwhile, also made a first round exit last year and this after reaching the quarter-finals in 2008 and in 2010.

Their build-up to AFCON 2013 has been excellent though, the side beating defending champions Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda to boost their confidence and giving the impression they are capable of making it to the next round.

Former Manchester United striker Manucho and midfield maestro Djalma Campos gave coach Gustavo Ferrin a scare when they both picked up knocks during the training camp, but the duo are set to start their opening match.

"Now the batteries are charged for the first game, with Morocco, and then the other games of Group A. We are well prepared, tactically, technically, physically and psychologically," Campos told the Angola Press Agency.

Motivation is not short for either side with Morocco aiming to capture a trophy they last won in 1976 while Angola will want to go a step further than the quarters.

Posted: 18/01/13 09:57

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