Blog: Can Zambia handle the favourites tag?
The Chipolopolo Boys take on Uganda on Sunday night in a CHAN 2018 tournament in Morocco.
Coach Wedson Nyirenda has been optimistic about the team’s chances and the frank talking coach has targeted reaching his first major cup continental final.
Zambia Under Herve Renard and George Lwandamina in 2009 and 2016 reached the semi-finals and quarter finals respectively.
Zambia has gone into the tournament as one of the favourites owing to the fact that the backbone of the team played in the World Cup qualifiers and have CAF Champions League experience.
Actually there are nine players in the CHAN squad who started at least one World Cup qualifier either against Algeria or Nigeria last year.
Zesco United quartet Kondwani Mtonga, Lazarous Kambole, Fackson Kapumbu and Simon Silwimba were part of that Zega side that reached the semi finals of the CAF Champions League two seasons ago.
Then from Zanaco, there are also four players who are expected to join the Zesco United quartet in the starting line.
Ziyo Tembo leads the pack with wingers Augustine Mulenga and Ernest Mbewe, and goalkeeper Toaster Nsabata.
The boys from Sunset Stadium helped the bankers to 12 points in the CAF 2017 Champions League group stage and only missed out on a quarter final birth on goal difference to eventual finalists Wydad Casablanca and Al Ahly.
From the eight Zesco and Zanaco contingent set to start only Nsabata and Kambole didn’t start in the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers last year.
In addition to that massive experience amassed on the continent, these set of players have winning mentality.
Zesco United and Zanaco have dominated the local league winning the last 13 league titles between them from a possible 16.
Need to complete a puzzle
With those eight players forming that backbone, then Wada Wada will need three more to complete a jigsaw.
When Kondwani was injured in the World Cup qualifiers, Nyirenda brought on Donashamo Malama and the Northern Technical College trained diploma holder and Nkana captain did a good job to shield the back four against Algeria.
Donashamo, also has experience from continental games owing to Kalampa’s good run in a few years ago.
Though there’s still divided opinion over Alex Ng’onga’s creditials back home, the Power Dynamos striker was mobbed by Nigerian fans after the match when he led the line for Zambia in the absence of them injured duo Patson Daka and Brian Mwila.
It’s now ten players from the ZamFoot Crew experienced side.
Then either Isaac Shamujompa or Adrian Chama can just be slotted in defence to complete the jigsaw.
Based on 2017 international form then….
Zambia XI: Toaster Nsabata; Simon Silwimba, Isaac Shamujompa, Ziyo Tembo, Fackson Kapumbu; Ernest Mbewe, Kondwani Mtonga, Donashamo Malama, Augustine Mulenga; Lazarous Kambole, Alex Ng’onga.
How will they line up against Uganda?
Zambia and Uganda have come head to head in recent time and remember, Zambia needed post penalties to qualify for the 2013 African Cup of Nations.
In 2016, Zambia edged out Uganda 1-0 in a friendly before a World Cup qualifier against Cameroon. Wada was in charge in both games.
In order to navigate past the Cranes, Wada Wada is expected to maintain that back five though there could be a possibility of Shamujompa starting.
Donashamo, one of the leaders will start on the bench and Green Buffaloes’ Jack Chirwa will get the nod though he will be asked to play in a more advanced role.
In attack, Ng’onga will also start on the bench and it will be another soldier who is set to start.
Friday Samu, who stepped up his game and notched 12 goals for Buffaloes seems to have seen off competition from Chanda Mushili and Martin Phiri for the right to partner Kambole.
While they are carrying a favourites tag, there should be caution because this is the same squad which capitulated against Zimbabwe in the 2017 Cosafa Cup final.
Zambia Probable XI v Uganda: Toaster Nsabata; Simon Silwimba, Adrian Chama, Ziyo Tembo, Fackson Kapumbu; Ernest Mbewe, Kondwani Mtonga, Jack Chirwa Augustine Mulenga; Lazarous Kambole, Friday Samu
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