THE exemption of Zambia from the preliminary stage of the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers will not have a bearing on the team’s preparations for the competition, FAZ communication manager Nkweto Tembwe has said.
Tembwe said the technical bench was more concerned with whom Zambia will clash with in the second round from draws set for Saturday.
He said the association’s target was for Zambia to make a maiden appearance at the World Cup and will therefore ensure that the team was adequately prepared as planned.
“The exemption is a good development but not something to make the technical bench remain complacent because we have no idea of our opponents., “We have two important targets, to qualify for the World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil. The association is determined to ensure that the team is adequately prepared for the qualifiers,” he said.
He said the exemption was an eye -opener that the team needed to work harder to maintain the status quo of a best team in Africa.
Tembwe said the exemption was a clear picture that Zambia belonged to the elite teams on the continent contrary to assertions of those that wanted to paint a dark picture about football in Zambia.
“CAF exempted the Chipolopolo from the first round because it’s one of the continent’s top ranked teams. It is a clear demonstration that the Chipolopolo is a force to reckon with in Africa. It is sad that some individuals want to paint a dark picture about the football standards in our country.
“But this announcement by FIFA calls for hard work by the team. The players should have it in mind that they are representing a big team in Africa hence aim to qualify for Russia,” he said.
Zambia Sports Fans Association (ZSFA) chairperson Peter Makembo said the Chipolopolo were capable of beating any African side but the players needed to have confidence.
“At times, what makes us not to qualify is the fear players have when meeting renowned teams like Ghana or Algeria. The players need to build confidence ahead of the tough World Cup qualifiers,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Tanzania women national team arrived in Zambia yesterday ahead of the Papua New Guinea 2016 Under-20 World Cup first round second leg qualifier against the Shepolopolo on Saturday at Nkoloma Stadium.
The Shepolopolo coach Osward Mutapa has declared his charges ready for the challenge.
“The team is ready to face Tanzania this weekend. Our target is to get a win and will not allow Tanzania to cause an upset,” he said.