AS the Zambia soccer squad regrouped in Ndola yesterday to begin preparations for this weekend's crunch 2013 CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier against Uganda, coach Herve Renard has declared that his mission is to take the Chipolopolo to next year's finals in South Africa.
Renard said in Ndola yesterday that qualification to the 2013 AFCON finals was the only important thing for the Chipolopolo at the moment.
"Qualification is the only important thing for us," Renard said when asked about the September 8 first leg against the Cranes.
Skipper Christopher Katongo signed off for international duty with a goal in his Chinese club, Henan Construction's 2-1 victory over Shandong Luneng in a game he and his Chipolopolo teammate Isaac Chansa played 90 minutes.
The African champions will have the first training session at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola today and Renard is expected to have a full house of the players he has summoned for the Cranes assignment tomorrow.
Already in camp are local players in goalkeepers Joshua Titima, Danny Munyao and midfielder Thomas Nyirenda with the foreign-based players of Lawrence Phiri, Joseph Musonda, Felix Katongo, Chintu Kampamba and Davies Nkausu joining camp yesterday while Jacob Mulenga is expected this morning.
And Uganda coach, Bobby Williamson is desperately plotting to design a strategy that will make up for the absence of injured key strikers, Geoffrey Massa and Brian Umony.
According to the New Vision newspaper yesterday, Williamson will try to experiment and decide on the right options following the arrival of Hamis Diego Kiiza, who joined other strikers, Robert Ssentongo and Emmanuel Okwi.
The Cranes embarked on a rigorous training programme aimed at improving the fitness levels under the sweltering temperatures at Namboole Stadium in Kampala on Friday.
During their build-up to the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Angola in June, fitness was a major concern for Williamson.
And the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) has deferred the selling of match tickets for the Uganda from today to Wednesday to curb counterfeiting.
FAZ communications manager, Erick Mwanza said in a Press release yesterday that the moving of the selling window to Wednesday was to ensure and enhance security around ticketing.
Mwanza said tickets would be sold at Zesco customer service centres in Ndola, Kitwe and Luanshya, Savoy Hotel in Ndola, Kitwe's Edinburgh Hotel and Axis Centre on Cairo Road in Lusaka while a limited number would be sold at Football House on Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili has called on soccer fans to turn up in large numbers to give maximum support to the Chipolopolo during this weekend match and issued a stern warning against vandalising the stadium property.
Speaking when he appeared on the Zambia National Broadcasing Corporation (ZNBC) Kwacha good morning programme yesterday, Kambwili said it was high time football started operating on its own, unlike the current situation where the association runs to Government for assistance.