Nigeria vs Angola: Who is Gelson Dala and why Super Eagles must be wary

Friday’s quarter-final clash between the Super Eagles and Angola promises to be an exciting encounter as both teams come into the game with different hopes of getting a spot in the semi-finals.

While Angola have outscored Nigeria so far in the tournament, the Super Eagles seem to be getting better by the day.

A strong showing against Cameroon has given the team a big boost of confidence while Angola, who defeated Namibia 3-0, will hope to continue their good form in front of goal against a Nigeria side that has only conceded one goal in four games.

Gelson Dala Super Eagles
Photo by Icon Sport

Much of the attention since the start of the tournament has been on Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen, who came into the competition as the African Footballer of the Year.

Even though he has scored only one goal so far, he has been instrumental in many of Nigeria’s goals because of his all-action style, Angolan striker Gelson Dala has outshone the Napoli forward with four goals so far in the tournament.

Who is Gelson Dala?

The 27-year-old has been immense for the Palancas Negras, accounting for four of the seven goals Angola has scored at the Africa Cup of Nations with an assist to boot.

His combination with Augostinho Mabululu, who himself has an impressive haul of three goals, has seen Angola progress to the quarter-final with a chance to make it to the semi-final.

Now with Qatar Stars League side Al Wakrah, started out in Angola with local side Primero de Augosto in Luanda before getting noticed by Portuguese scouts who took him to Portugal to link up with the Sporting Lisbon B side in 2017.

The 27-year-old only made one appearance for the Sporting Lisbon first team in the league before being farmed out to Rio Ave.

Since then, he has bounced around the Portuguese League with Rio Ave and the Turkish League with Antalyaspor before linking up with Qatari side Al Wakrah first in August 2021 on loan before making it permanent in July 2022.

This season with Al Wakrah, he has scored five goals from 12 matches so far.

Dala's AFCON form a warning sign for Super Eagles

Not many gave the Palancas Negras chances to progress in a tough group that had Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Mauritania when the draws were made, but they have stunned a lot of people at this year’s tournament.

A 1-1 draw with Algeria in the first group game was a pointer that Angola was in the Ivory Coast for business before they followed it up with a hard-fought 3-2 win over another surprise package Mauritania in the second group game before dispatching Burkina Faso 3-0.

Photo by Icon Sport

A Round of 16 placing saw them hit Namibia 3-0 in a one-sided encounter that saw Angola punch their tickets for the quarter-final with Nigeria.

Gelson Dala has been in the forefront of the Angola campaign at the AFCON with his intelligent runs and power play.

He did not score in the first game, but he was involved in most of Angola’s positive front play and the equaliser by Mabululu in the draw with Algeria.

Dala came up with braces in the second group game against Mauritania and the Round of 16 game with Namibia to show his importance to the Angolan team.

Be afraid Super Eagles, be very afraid

Gelson Dala will be the main man Nigeria should look out for in a dangerous and quick Angolan attack that has shown what they can do with the showing so far.

With 14 goals from 31 internationals for the Palancas Negras, his ratio has shown he is one to be taken seriously.

Quick, witty, and with great positional awareness, he has the ability to beat his man with pace and also packs a powerful shot.

Photo by Icon Sport

Aside goal-scoring, he also contributes to the overall attacking play of his team, which has seen him with an assist and hold-up play that has benefited Augustinho Mabululu a lot, with the latter notching three goals himself.

Nigeria's' defence will have to be at their best if they want to stop the former Rio Ave man from denting their quest for a fourth African title.

The Super Eagles and the Palancas Negras will face each other on Friday, February 2, 2024, at the Stade Félix-Houphouët-Boigny by 6 pm Nigerian time.

Nigeria vs Angola: Who is Gelson Dala and why Super Eagles must be wary
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a seasoned Africa sports journalist, and a former Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 national team. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on the NPFL and African football, Randa is esteemed for his expertise in football content creation. Furthermore, he holds the distinction of being Nigeria's foremost sports kit designer and a trailblazer in the realm of sports graphics in Nigeria.