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When Hugo Marques walks into any room, one can easily notice his towering presence. Standing at 6ft3in (1.91m), the Angolan custodian has the ideal height of a modern goalkeeper. On the pitch, he is fast on his feet and has the reflex that any top goalkeeper should have.

For Angola at the ongoing TotalEnergies African Nations Championship CHAN 2022, he does not only provide his on-the-pitch excellence but also leadership – the tangible experience that only comes with playing at the highest level for more than a decade.

The veteran goalkeeper who turned 37 on Sunday plays for Petro de Luanda back home and is an exemplary player within the Palancas Negras setup.

He not only leads by action but also has the ear of coach Pedro Goncalves as well as the utter respect from the rest of the coaching staff. He is the ideal dependable man at a continental competition like the CHAN.

Marques returned home last year after an amazing season in the PSL in South Africa where he was named as the Goalkeeper of the 2021/22 Season after helping Cape Town City to second place in the league and challenging for the title in a competition that has predominantly been dominated by giants Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs.

At the team hotel in Oran, Marques is the first one out of his room to converge for a quick snack in the late afternoon before the team heads out for their last training before they come up against Mauritania in a do or die fixture on Friday, 21 January.

“This is a very important game for us as a team. It will determine if we remain in the tournament. This is my first and last CHAN tournament, so I want us to do very well and go to the final and win the trophy,” Marques tells CAFOnline in an exclusive interview.

“I also want us to enjoy the game. We have a chance to make history in Angola and to qualify for the quarter-finals. We want to be the first in the group and we can make it happen. We have a quality team to deliver this for the fans.”

Marques featured for Angola at the AFCON 2012 and has great memories from that tournament in Equatorial Guinea. He said: “that was more than 10 years ago but it felt good to play at the biggest tournament in Africa. I am feeling like that again here at the CHAN and I want us to do well.”

Angola blew a 3-1 lead in the 78th minute of their opening Group D game against Mali when they conceded twice in five minutes to settle for a point, but Marques says that the Palancas Negras have shaken that draw off their backs.