Masters itch for an upset

Masters Security FC will this afternoon ignite their debut CAF Confederations Cup campaign with their backs to the wall when they face Atletico Petroleos de Lunda in a preliminary round first-leg.

They are up against an outfit that has competed in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League and Confederation Cup seven times apiece and their coach Abbas Makawa—though upbeat of causing an upset—concedes that it won’t be a stroll in the park when his charges come face-to-face with the seasoned campaigners in the rough terrain of African football in the cauldron of November 11 Stadium in Luanda.

Masters (in red) are taking part in a CAF tourney for the first time

The world of sport, by its nature, has always been fascinated by feel-good stories about the underdog—who suddenly finds oneself facing the might of the heavyweight — hoping for that shock victory that will cheer the spirits of the globe and Masters are relishing such an upset.

The match kicks off at 5pm local time and will be broadcast live on Times Radio.

Masters—battling to shake off fatigue that comes with long hours of travelling—flew into the Angolan capital yesterday morning and were expected to get the feel of the match venue in the afternoon.

While admitting that fatigue could take its toll on his players in the countdown to the match, Makawa was upbeat that they would have recovered by the time they face the Angolans.

“Of course, we needed a bit of more time to rest and acclimatise but, unfortunately, because of other the unforeseen circumstances, we could not.

“Nevertheless, we are set for the showdown. I know that most of the people back home don’t give us a chance, but we will give it our best shot,” he said.

Asked if lack of experience at international level, coupled with the gulf in class and playing away, puts his team at a disadvantage, the Masters mentor said: “On paper, that is the case, but we are determined to get a result here. They hardly know us and we want to capitalise on that.”

Makawa said while it would be a risk to send his team into an all-out attack against their Angolan opponents, their plan is to score a quick goal so as to unsettle them and then switch to defensive play.

And despite the recent losses to Nyasa Big Bullets (0-2) and Be Forward Wanderers (0-4) in friendly matches, he remained bullish that they have done enough to grind a result.

“Those two matches helped us spot our weak areas and we have tried to work on them and as I said, this will be a totally different game against a different team altogether.”

On his part, team captain Tsanzo Dalio said: “We will give our best. We know that it won’t be easy playing away, but we will give a fight.”

He, however,  acknowledged that their friendly matches mirrored some shortfalls in defence and attack.

“We have ironed out the defensive and attacking weaknesses. We are going there with optimism that victory is ours,” said the captain.

Dalio also played down stage fright prospects, saying: “Of course, most of our players will be playing at such level for the first time, but that on its own is a motivation to give out our best.”

While Masters qualified by virtue of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Fisd Challenge Cup, their opponents earned their ticket after winning the Angola Cup.

Masters also finished 12th in the 16-team TNM Super League and survived the chop at eleventh hour while Petro Atletico were runners-up in the Angolan flagship Girabola League to Primeiro de Agosto.

The Angolans also boast the most championships—15—and are coached by a Brazilian Beto Bianchi. Their top scorer is Brazilian Tiago Azulao who netted 18 goals last season.

Apart from Azulao, their other foreign-based players include Elio Martins (Portugal), Harrison, Tony and Diney (Brazil), Dennis Sesugh (Nigeria) and Tressor Souza (Cameroon).

Their first-choice goalkeeper Lama was part of the Angolan squad which qualified for the 2006 World Cup. n

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