Nigeria faces a different and transformed Chipolopolo after one year
Twelve months ago, Nigeria traveled to Zambia for a World Cup qualifier match against the Chipolopolo on 9th October 2016 and by the time the Super Eagles left the country, they were all smiles as they had gotten off to a perfect start in the qualifiers with three points in the bag via a 2 – 1 victory.
Two Nigerian prodigies, Alex Iwobi and Iheanacho Ikelechi had had given the visitors a two goal cushion going into the second half with Collins Mbesuma scoring the face saver in the 71st minute.
At this point, Zambia’s world cup dream seemed to have been over before it even seen the light of day.
Needless to say this was coach Wedson Nyirenda’s first game in-charge of the Chipolopolo.
Fast track to today….. Zambian fans have renewed hope in the dream for a maiden World Cup appearance.
The turnaround has been remarkable in the qualifiers since that loss to Nigeria. It first started with a draw away against the African Champions Cameroon, a game which many thought Zambia could have won.
This was followed by back to back wins against Algeria at home and away.
There is a feeling that the hard decisions Wada Wada has made in regenerating the team with the inclusion of the U20 players and the dropping of the ‘old favorites’ who won the Africa Cup in 2012 may be paying off.
In the first leg, Mbesuma (then 32) was the oldest player in the team while Nathan Sinkala (then 25) was the youngest.
In this his current team, Wada Wada has 31 year old skipper Kennedy Mweene as the oldest player with 18 year old Patson Daka as the youngest player who is likely to start alongside fellow temager Enock Mwepu (19).
Zambia XI v Nigeria (09.10.2016)
16 Kennedy Mweene 12 Kabaso Chongo 3 Fackson Kapumbu 4 Adrian Chama (Kondwani Mtonga) 13 Stopilla Sunzu 19 Nathan Sinkala 17 Rainford Kalaba 10 Fwayo Tembo (Rogers Kola) 11 Chisamba Lungu 9 Collins Mbesuma 8 Winston Kalengo (Jackson Mwanza)
Of the team that started and lost to Nigeria at home, only Kennedy Mweene, Stopilla Sunzu, Chisamba Lungu and Fackson Kapumbu remain in the current squad including Kondwani Mtonga who came in a substitute.
Of the four, Mweene, Sunzu and Chisamba played against the Nigeria when the two teams last met in the 1 – draw at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament in January 2013.
Zambia XI v Algeria – Most recent game (05.09.2017)
16 Kennedy Mweene 6 Simon Silwimba 20 Fackson Kapumbu 19 Ziyo Tembo 13 Stopilla Sunzu 23 Kondwani Mtonga 17 Augustine Mulenga 14 Enock Mwepu 12 Justin Shonga (Alex Ng’onga 60’) 10 Patson Daka (Donashano Malama) 2 Ernest Mbewe (Emmanuel Banda 90’)
While Nigeria may look to ride on the result in Ndola, they will be facing a totally different team this time around. The combination of youth and experience makes the Chipolopolo look a very formidable team – A team resilient enough to hold their own and pick maximum points despite being a man down against Algeria at home. A team strong enough to hold their own and pick maximum points in front of a packed 45,000 seater Mohamed-Hamlaoui Stadium in Constatine Algeria.
In the photo – Teenagers Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka celebrate Mwepu’s goal against Algeria
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