Zambia has never been to the finals of the FIFA World Cup. After the nation's first Africa Cup triumph at the 28th Africa Cup of Nations finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last February, the nation's fans believed that time could be ripe for Africa's newest champions to grace football's biggest football spectacle scheduled for Brazil in 2014.
The Chipolopolo's Group 'D' campaign started with a demanding match against a tough Sudanese side in Khartoum. The Falcons of Jediah triumphed 2-0 to leave Chipolopolo stunned and requiring a result in their second match against the Black Stars of Ghana. In the newly built 40,100 seat Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Zambia's northern city of Ndola, African champions Zambia play Ghana at the weekend in what is anticipated to be a highly explosive and feisty encounter.
Going into that match, the Zambians say that they have put behind the loss in Sudan, a result skipper Chris Katongo said was just a bad day at the office. The 'team is now focused on the next game against Ghana and we are ready for the match', declared Katongo in an interview with Cafonline.com. ahead of the weekend's game
After you won the Africa Cup about four months ago, millions of your fans believed that you are in a good position to win your African zone FIFA World Cup qualifying Group D which also has Ghana, Sudan and Lesotho. How are you preparing for your second world cup qualification game against the Black Stars after the loss in Sudan?
We have put behind that loss in Sudan. Yes, we lost the match but that is not the end of the qualifiers. It was just the start. In the Africa Cup qualifiers for finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, we lost to Libya at the start of the qualification in Tripoli but we went on to win our group. The team is now focused on the next game against Ghana and we are ready for match. We have a fantastic coach and I know that with the hard work we are all putting in, we will have a good game and good result on Saturday against Ghana.
How is the spirit and players' mood in the Chipolopolo camp? Is there pressure on the team to win at all costs after that 0-2 loss in Sudan?
We are not under pressure at all. Yes, we are African champions and proud of it but that does not pressurize us because Africa Cup games and world cup games are different. We are just preparing very well. Everyone is enjoying the competition in training and the team spirit and morale of the players is good.
You beat Ghana 1-0 in the semi finals of the Africa Cup finals in February in a very tough match. What type of contest are you anticipating this time round?
That game at the AFCON finals is also now behind us. Our focus is on the Ghana team which we are playing in the world cup qualifiers at the weekend. We know that Ghana is a tough team. We respect them but we shall never fear them. The game is going to be competitive but with our preparation and the strategy set up by the coach, we will do well. We will be ready for them.
Is playing at home an advantage? Further, you will be playing the first game in this brand new stadium after its official opening and commission last week. The President of the Republic of Zambia Mr Michael Sata said you need to win to honour the memory of the former president after whom the stadium is named as well as to get your campaign on track.
In football, you can win anywhere. It is just about how you prepare and how well you do on the day. We won the Africa Cup of Nations away from home. It is important to win your home games in the qualifier games because travelling can be difficult at times.
And President Sata's message for the team to win? How crucial will be home support at the new stadium?
The President's encouragement is welcome. We will do our best. The people should expect a good game and good result. To play in a good stadium and good pitch is good motivation. We want to do well for ourselves and for the people. So the support of the people and the fans at the stadium is very important. They must support the team throughout the game. When we are playing, there could be times when someone makes a mistake and when we have to attack and defend. It is important that the fans support us throughout.