AS THE kickoff date for the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Angola draws nearer, Mozambique vice-captain Dario Monteiro says his team could rewrite the history books.
In three past attempts, the Mambas have failed to get further than the group stages of the continental competition, and a cursory look at their Group C opponents does not inspire confidence that they will turn things around this time.
Mozambique's group comprises powerhouses Egypt and Nigeria, as well as Benin.
Monteiro, who plays for SuperSport United here, and his teammates are currently in camp in Bloemfontein. The man who Gavin Hunt has used largely as an impact player has the responsibility - along with Jomo Cosmos's Manuel "Tico Tico" Bucuane, Mamelodi Sundowns' Elias Pelembe and Simão Mate Jnr, who plays his club football at Panathinaikos in Greece - to steer Mozambique past big boys Nigeria and Egypt.
"There is no doubt that it will be very tough for us, but this is a very positive team. Just the fact that we qualified means we are good enough and have to back ourselves even against the big-name teams," Monteiro said.
The Mambas kick off their campaign in Angola on January 12 against Benin, a team Monteiro describes as a mystery to them.
"We do not really know a lot about them, which has meant a lot of research and caution on our side. But that is the nature of the game," he said.
Monteiro also says the favourites will follow the script and set the tournament alight, with Ghana and Ivory Coast in particular being the teams to watch.
The Nigerians - who clash with defending champions Egypt on January 12 - have been at pains to play down the favourites tag, denying they will sail through to the next round at the expense of Mozambique and Benin.