Optimism is riding high in the Zambian camp as the champions come face to face today with two time winners Nigeria in a game that is bound to ultimately define the Chipolopolo’s destiny in the ongoing 2013 AFCON in South Africa.
After the disastrous 1-1 draw against Ethiopia, Coach Herve Renard and his technical bench have no option but to win this encounter to brighten their chances of qualifying to the next round without putting too much pressure on themselves by thinking about the out come of the match against Burkina Faso next week.
Renard has already sounded the warning drums by telling his charges that it was time the African champions started behaving like conquerors and losing to the tough but beatable West Africans will put the reigning champions in a precarious situation.
It was the Nigerians who , in the 2010 AFCON hosted by Angola, handed the Zambians the ticket back home after a 5-4 drubbing in the quarter finals and Renard will do well to ensure that his charges play better than they did against Ethiopia to silence the critics and hopefully table the table.
After those disastrous substitutions which did little to change the tempo against Ethiopia, Renard should be wary to note that starting the match on a shaky note will cost his side the valuable points but lining up a strong side will see him gain advantage.
As evidenced by the results of the other group matches after their first games, Nigeria is also expected to come with guns blazing and it would be folly for Renard to think of winning the game in the second round, though this is possible.
The champions have no options but to wind down and get a positive result and continue with their mission of defending the cup the team won last year.
Renard has all the players he wants to pick from to assemble a winning side for Zambia and shame the critics who have said it is impossible to win the trophy back to back.
Emmanuel Mayuka, Jacob Mulenga, Mukuka Mulenga, ‘Master’ Rainford Kalaba, and many more are baying for Nigeria’s blood and hence there should be no room for excuse on the part of the Coach.
Chipolopolo Soccer Fans Association (CSFA) chairman Yotham Mwanza said that his members were optimistic that with the right approach and selection of the players on the pitch by the coach, the Chipolopolo boys were set to shoot down the Green Eagle and set the tone for the next encounter against Burkina Faso next week.
“There is nothing tough against Nigerian. We have the chance to see our team walk off the pitch as victors against the Eagle and set a tone against Burkina Faso next week” he said.