Angola have been dealt a big blow ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) following striker M’bala Nzola’s withdrawal from the tournament.
The Fiorentina forward was primed to lead the Black Antelopes to the AFCON, which will kick off on January 13, 2024. Angola will play in AFCON Group D, along with Algeria, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
Nzola was named in Angola’s squad for the tournament, but the Angola Press Agency reports that the player has communicated his unavailability to the Angolan Football Federation (FAF).
Nzola prioritises club commitments
Nzola had appeared very enthused about representing his country at the AFCON in the Ivory Coast but is said to have made a U-turn to preserve his club career.
The 27-year-old joined Fiorentina last summer following a productive stint with Spezia, where he netted an impressive 13 goals in the previous campaign.
However, the striker has since failed to replicate the rich vein of form for the Viola, resulting in limited game time. Nzola has scored just one goal in 17 appearances for Fiorentina this season and has found the back of the net only three times in all competitions thus far.
This, the Angola Press Agency reports, was a big factor in the player’s decision to turn down Angola’s AFCON invite. The report suggests the Italian side was planning to enter the market for a new striker in January, should Nzola leave for the one-month tournament.
Desperate to avoid dropping further down the pecking order, Nzola is said to have communicated his decision to withdraw from the AFCON to prioritise his club career.
Nzola faces future consequences from Angola FA
Meanwhile, Nzola’s decision reportedly surprised the Angola FA, with head coach Pedro Gonçalves said to be considering permanently excluding him from future selections.
This also renews conversations on the dilemmas of African players, who are usually torn between obligations to their clubs and countries during the AFCON.
Nzola, who made his debut for Angola in 2021, has been capped six times and has scored two goals for the Antelopes. His late withdrawal, however, means coach Gonçalves will now be forced to name a replacement, having initially included the Fiorentina striker in his final 25-man squad for the AFCON.