Zambia: Six Weeks Enough for Chipolopolo - Renard

CHIPOLOPOLO trainer, Herve Renard has said six weeks is adequate enough to ensure that the African Champions are in good shape to defend the title when the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals kick off in January.

Renard, who expects a full strength squad by December 15, however said, defending the trophy would have its own challenges as it would not be easy with teams like Ivory Coast who fired their coach Francois Zahoui and replaced him with Sabri Lamouchi with the aim of winning the Cup.

"In our group we have Nigeria, who have not lost a game in 2012, and there is also Ivory Coast, who changed their coach and beat Austria 3-0. So you see the levels of competition and it is why I have always emphasised on a good group finish but we like such challenges as they provide with a fantastic opportunity to defend the title," he said.

Renard said the locally based side will play Saudi Arabia in two friendly matches on December 1 and 4 before going on a week break after which a full strength side will regroup in preparation for the Tanzania friendly with possibly one or two faces from the developmental side.

He said Captain Christopher Katongo and other foreign-based players would join camp on December 15 adding that six weeks preparation was enough to prepare the team for the AFCON title defence.

Renard said though Zambia will be heading to South Africa without the tournament favourites tag, the team has always had self belief which he said had been the key and strength in achieving success.

"I have always said that we shall be ready for the D-day on January 21 because six weeks is good time to prepare as we can do a lot of work just as was the case before the 2010 and 2012 AFCON finals. The

motivation is that the players focus and commitment are always fantastic," he said.

He said he was not worried by the lack of playing time for striker Emmanuel Mayuka coupled with the relegation of Katongo and Isaac Chansa of Chinese club Henan Construction from the elite league.

On Italian based-Zambian born goalkeeper who is part of the team in camp, Renard said Luciano Sandro Pasquini needed to do a lot of work but expressed happiness that the coaching bench has had a look at him.

He said the friendly match against Saudi Arabia would again help him see which players can be fused into the senior team like was the case during the India training camp where Chisamba Lungu and Nathan Sinkala emerged as 2012 AFCON revelations.

"That is the advantage of having a camp because you get to see other players, though others just once while others keep coming back. It is important to always have new players in

camp as we did with Lungu and Sinkala and this is how beautiful football is sometimes," Renard said jokingly.

Renard will take 20 players among them Lungu, whose season in Russia is on a break, Aaron Katebe of Hwange FC in Zimbabwe and clubless Chintu Kampamba.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality has honoured the Chipolopolo by placing the Zambian flag prominently from the other 15 national flags that will participate at the 2013 AFCON.

Project co-ordinator for the City of Johannesburg Bongi Mukaba, who was also master of ceremonies during the flag raising ceremony for the 16 teams competing in the AFCON, said the Zambian flag had been placed separately from other national flags so that they could aspire to reach the levels the Chipolopolo were at as defending champions.

Zambia's Deputy High Commissioner, Joe Kaunda said it was an honour and privilege that the status of the country had been acknowledged, adding that it was, therefore, a challenge for the Chipolopolo to maintain the lofty heights and continue raising the flag high.

This is according to a statement released by First Secretary for Press at the Zambian High Commission in South Africa, Patson Chilemba.

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