ZAMBIA’S hopes for the Rio 2016 Olympics begins with a gigantic test tonight when the junior Chipolopolo boys clash with Tunisia at the CAF Africa Championships in Dakar, Senegal.
The Fighton Simukonda-tutored boys are on a mission to break Zambia’s 27-years absence from the Olympics. Could this be the dream team?
Simukonda has pronounced his lads ready for the difficult task and stated that the team will fight for a win in the opening match of the tournament.
This will be Zambia’s opportunity to avenge the 2-1 beating the senior team suffered at the hands of Tunisia at the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in January.
On paper Tunisia appears to be a better side, but Simukonda has declared a tough game against the North Africans.
Simukonda said the boys will ensure that they do not give Tunisia a chance to create corners and free kicks as that would be costly for Zambia.
“They are a good side and we expect a tough challenge. Tunisia is good at corners and free kicks, but the boys are ready to clear their lines. Our target is a win and nothing else. A win will boost the team’s morale ahead of the two group matches,” he said.
However, the junior Chipolopolo will be without enterprising midfielder Lubambo Musonda who joins the team on Monday.
This is because Lubambo will only be released by his club Gandzasar Kapan of Armenian after their match on Sunday.
Lubambo was instrumental in helping the senior team qualify to the group stages of the 2018 Russia World Cup after beating Sudan 3-0 on aggregate.
Striker Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba was yesterday expected to join the team from Eygpt.
Simukonda has Conlyde Luchanga, Kampamba, Aubry Chirwa, Friday Samu and Patrick Ngoma as options to start upfront.
Tunisia coach Maher Kanzari has vowed he will not allow Zambia to upset their dream of qualifying to the Olympics.
“It’s going to be a tough game. But nothing will stop us from recording victory against Zambia. The boys are ready and determined to get closer to the Olympic dream,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zambia Soccer Fans Association (ZSFA) chairperson Peter Makembo urged the boys to keep the momentum and put smiles on Zambian faces.
“We are behind the boys. The boys have all what it takes to reach the Olympics. It’s good both teams are playing on a neutral ground, so Zambia will not have to give excuses,” Makembo said.
Zambia reached the quarter-finals of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games in Korea by beating Italy 4-0.
The top three teams of the tournament will qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics men’s football tournament in Brazil as the CAF representatives.
Goalkeepers: Toaster Nsabata (Zanaco), Kenny Mumba (Red Arrows) and Lawrence Mulenga (Kabwe Warriors);
Defenders: Benedict Chepeshi (Red Arrows), Taonga Bwembya (Mufulira Wanderers), Boyd Mkandawire (Napsa Stars), Solomon Sakala (Kabwe Warriors), Benson Sakala (Power Dynamos), Kapota Kayawe (Nkana) and Billy Mutale (Power Dynamos)
Midfielders: Jackson Chirwa (Green Buffaloes), Paul Katema (Red Arrows), Salulani Phiri (Zanaco), Spencer Sautu (Green Eagles), John Ching’andu (Zesco United) and Lubambo Musonda (Gandzasar Kapan /Armenia);
Strikers: Ronald Kampamba (Lierse SK/Belgium), Patrick Ngoma (Al Ittihad/ Egypt), Conlyde Luchanga (Lusaka Dynamos), Aubrey Chirwa (Platinum FC/Zimbabwe) and Friday Samu (Green Buffaloes).