By Karen Iley
HANOVER, Jun 17 (Reuters) Happy just to be at the World Cup, Angola have surprised everyone including themselves by clinging to the prospect of a berth in the knockout phase after they held Mexico to a draw in Hanover.
''There is a small possibility that we can go through. We have to dream,'' said striker Akwa.
After suffering another nervy start, the Black Antelopes found their feet as the first half wore on, thwarting the Mexican attack with stubborn defending and the performance of a lifetime from clubless keeper Joao Ricardo.
The point from Friday's match leaves Angola with a chance to progress beyond the group phase should they beat Iran handsomely in Leipzig on Wednesday and Portugal take maximum points in their last two group matches including a big win over Mexico.
But the Africans, who have so far failed to dazzle on their World Cup debut, realise that they cannot continue to freeze under the World Cup lights and must play tighter football right from the whistle.
''We have a greater sense of self belief now. We believe we can do it, even though we... have to control the game from the very first minute,'' Akwa, the team captain, said.
'GOOD FEELING' The Angolans, delighted with a slender 1-0 loss to former rulers Portugal, leapt in joy at yesterday's goalless draw, which had at best been uninspiring.
''It was a really good feeling,'' said defender Rui Marques, who moved forward to replace veteran midfielder Figueiredo.
''It's a fantastic result for Angola. We can dream about the next game and I believe that if we win that, we have a big chance to be in the next round,'' he added.
Ever the realist, Figueiredo was pleased with the result but frustrated that Angola, who were down to 10 men for the last 11 minutes after Andre Macanga was sent off, did not claim three points.
''This is our first point, we played an optimum game and better than we played against Portugal,'' he said.
''Unfortunately we didn't win and that was our objective but with 10 men we didn't want to be too risky.'' Agreeing that Angola must show confidence from the beginning, he said it was not always easy.
''You have to remember that we have met two massive teams who are in the top 10 in the world,'' he said.
''We always said that we wanted to demonstrate to everyone that we deserved to be here. I think we have already done that but in this last game against Iran we will do everything we can to pass through to the next round.
''Everything is open,'' he said.
Portugal play Iran in Frankfurt later on Saturday before facing Mexico in their final showdown on Wednesday.
REUTERS PM HT1422