THE Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) is lining up an international friendly match against Tanzania on December 23 to gauge the readiness of the Chipolopolo before launching the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) title defence in South Africa next year.
Zambia, eager to retain the coveted trophy at the 2013 AFCON finals, will undergo an intensive training programme and the team's preparedness will be tested in four tough friendly games.
With January 12 already set aside for a high-profile match against Norway at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola, the Chipolopolo will kick-off their pre-AFCON friendlies against the East African side at a venue to be named later after consultations are concluded.
According to FAZ sources, the Chipolopolo will also play two more preparatory games whose opponents are yet to be confirmed before giving local fans a mouth-watering farewell match against Norway in January.
The source also said that the association was determined to ensure the African champions were battle-ready for the 2013 AFCON finals and that the match against Tanzania would help the team especially that the Taifa Stars have played so many times with Zambia's AFCON opponents, Ethiopia.
FAZ assured the Zambians that the Chipolopolo would be ready for the opening January 21 clash against 1962 winners, Ethiopia in this Group C match set for Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
The association appealed to the local football enthusiasts to rally behind the team and turn up in numbers to cheer the squad in South Africa from the first match.
The source said the Nelson Mandela Challenge against South Africa last Wednesday which the Chipolopolo won courtesy of a Collins Mbesuma strike, gave coach Herve Renard pointer of his AFCON squad.
From the 2012 AFCON winning squad only star midfielder, Rainford Kalaba missed the Bafana Bafana clash due to injury.
The Chipolopolo medical team has already tailored a programme for Kalaba to help him heal completely with FAZ stressing that the nimble-footed player will not be rushed into action until he reaches his maximum potential.
However, the Chipolopolo's preliminary preparations will be a 10-day intensive training camp specifically for the local-based players, giving them an opportunity to stake their claim for a place in the AFCON squad.
After the initial India trip fell through, FAZ are now hoping to send the squad to Aspire Academy in Qatar with Milpark in South Africa being the other alternative if the journey to the Gulf flops.
On the facilities allocated to Zambia during the AFCON in Nelspruit, the source said the four-star Protea Hotel, complete with all necessary training facilities was a fantastic place for the Chipolopolo to plot their rise to the top again.
The Chipolopolo will be training at Ka Nyamazane Stadium within Nelspruit. Zambia is the top seed of Group C which also comprises two-time winners, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.