THE battle for places in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) Zambian squad begin tonight when the national developmental soccer team face Zimbabwe in an international friendly match set for the new Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
After failing to qualify to the last CHAN edition, Chipolopolo coach Herve Renard is looking for players who can qualify Zambia to the continental competition which is exclusively for local-based players.
The South Africa 2014 CHAN qualifiers are expected to start in November this year and while searching for the CHAN players, Renard will also use this fixture to identify other players for possible inclusion in the Chipolopolo main team like the Zimbabwe-based defender, Aaron Katebe and Lawrence Phiri from Angola.
Renard is also using this match to see which players would impress him before naming his team to play the FIFA 2002 World Cup semi finalists South Korea in August 15 in Seoul.
"We will be looking for young talented players capable to compete soon in the Chipolopolo. Like last year between November and December, we managed to find Chisamba Lungu and Nathan Sinkala," Renard said.
It is also yet to be seen if Renard will try-out exciting schoolboy, Godfrey Ngwenya, whom he fished out from the recent Airtel Rising Stars competition and also Konkola Mine Police's top scorer, Musonda Mwape.
But in the build-up to this game, the Zimbabwe technical bench dropped goalkeeper, Francis Tizayi and defender, Godfrey Moyo while Renard sent away striker Winston Kalengo, defender Charles Siyingwa and winger John Ching'andu after they reported late for camping.
However, Zambia should expect a tough challenge from the Warriors of Zimbabwe in the first game to be played under floodlights at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium which Renard has predicted a good game and hopes his charges would live-up to expectations.
"The Zimbabwe friendly will be important to us and it will be a good game in a fantastic stadium. I want to see how they (players) will handle the pressure of playing before 30,000 people," Renard said.
This game will also accord Katebe an opportunity to face his Hwange teammates, Francisco Zekumbawire and Rodwell Chinyengetere.
While experienced defender, Nyambe Mulenga is expected to miss this game due to a knee injury, Zimbabwe, who travelled by road, have recorded a clean health bill from the 21 players picked for this assignment.
Renard is likely to employ Jimmy Chisenga, Steven Kabamba, Thomas Nyirenda and Katebe in defence, giving cover to goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje.
Power Dynamos' skipper, Joseph Sitali, Venacious Mapande, Bruce Musakanya and Henry Banda are expected to marshal the midfielder with Lewis Macha and Evans Kangwa expected to lead the attack.
To add more excitement to this match dubbed the 'Battle of the Zambezi River', both nations have also opted to include a fixture between the women teams, which will serve as a curtain-raiser.
Zimbabwe, who last played a competitive match in June in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers where they were booted out by Nigeria's Super Falcons 6-0 on aggregate, are reciprocating the visit by the Zambians four months ago.
Zambia also failed to qualify for the biennial tournament, which would be held in Equatorial Guinea from October 28 to November 11, when they were hammered 2-6 by South Africa in the last qualifying round.
And now both teams are using the match to keep their teams in shape. The women match will kick-off at 15:00 hours while the men's game will start at 18:00 hours.