Zambia is oozing with confidence and is unfazed by the looming ‘battle of the Zambezi’ against rivals Zimbabwe in the CHAN 2016 tournament Group D match slated for Umuganda stadium in Rubavu.
Zambia coach George Lwandamina is upbeat ahead of this group match especially after he included two of the heroes of the 2012 African Cup of Nations-Chris Katongo and Isaac Chansa.
The trans-Zambezi clash will be the first between Zambia and Zimbabwe in a continental tournament.
Lwandamina yesterday declared Chipolopolo ready for a good CHAN adding that having a good balance of youth and experience coupled with good team spirit should bring positive results while Captain Katongo called for hard work, dedication and sacrifice in order to win.
Katongo, 33, has returned home to play for Green Buffaloes after stints in South Africa, Germany, Denmark, Greece and China.
He won the 2012 BBC African footballer of the Year award and his presence in the Chipolopolo squad for the CHAN finals has ignited hope among the Zambians.
Lwandamina has been excited by the high spirit in camp and hard work that the boys have been putting in and is focused to perform well in the championship.
“So many people have spoken so much about Zimbabwe. We will give the game the respect it deserves. Zimbabwe is not the only team we will face.” He said.
Zimbabwe is the most consistent South African nation in the history of CHAN; they have featured in every edition of the biennial event.
Their best outing in the tournament was in 2014 when they finished as the fourth best team, losing the third place match to Nigeria by 1-0 while Zambia defeated Mozambique 4-1 on aggregate to return to the CHAN tournament after missing the previous two editions.
The Chipolopolo were the third best team at the debut edition in 2009 that featured eight teams.
Chipolopolo, who camped for five days in Johannesburg, South Africa ahead of the tourney, beat Angola 2-1 before drawing 0-0 against Absa Premiership side Mamelodi Sundowns in their final warm up match.
Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane, whose side is preparing for the CAF Champions League, praised the Chipolopolo for a good show.
The Warriors, who left for Rwanda on Saturday, finished at the same final stage in the last campaign in South Africa and will be hoping to brush aside Zambia in their quest for glory. They have qualified for every edition of the tournament since it was inaugurated in 2009 while Zambia will only be making its second appearance at the tournament since coming third at the inaugural edition in 2009.
Lwandamina has an array of talented stars to lead the team to success including Conlyde Luchanga who will certainly partner with Captain Katongo and Patson Daka upfront to search for goals.
He should not worry about the midfield where Chansa, Cletus Chama and Mwape Mwelwa may combine their efforts to thwart any Warriors inroads.
Lwandamina can boast of a solid defence that includes Munthali, Donashano Malama, Solomon Sakala and Adrian Chama and will be in command to ease their goalkeeper’s task is lessened.
For Warriors Coach Callisto Pasuwa who never had any friendly games to prepare for the CHAN, his task maybe made difficult as the Chipolopolo will be seeking to avenge the loss in the last CHAN qualifiers at the hands of the Warriors.