FC UTRECHT on-fire striker, Jacob Mulenga is among the players Chipolopolo, coach Herve Renard has named in the provisional 26-man squad for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals slated for South Africa.
Napsa Stars, goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje, who has seen less club action, is a shocking inclusion into the team that gets into the final pre-AFCON preparations on December 26.
According to the team list released yesterday, there are no major surprises from the team that Renard took to the 2012 AFCON finals, apart from the inclusion of Zambian Player-of-the-Year Mukuka Mulenga and Saulani Phiri.
Midfielder Clifford Mulenga, who was sent packing due to indiscipline at the AFCON, and defender, Nyambe Mulenga are the only two players missing from the squad that won the AFCON championship which was co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Mukuka Mulenga has had a wonderful 2012 soccer season campaign with Power Dynamos as same as Phiri, who won the Zambian league title with Zanaco.
The duo joined by goalkeeper Joshua Titima are the three local-based players heading to South Africa on Wednesday as the Chipolopolo preparations hit top gear.
Jacob , who has so far scored seven goals for his FC Utrecht side in the Dutch Eredivisie, makes a return having missed the last edition through injury.
He starred for the Chipolopolo at 2010 AFCON finals held in Angola where Zambia reached the quarter-finals.
But the former Afrisports player sustained an injury that kept him on the sidelines for eight months and only made his return to the squad in the Mandela Challenge against Bafana Bafana last month, playing an impressive 45 minutes.
Coming along with him is another striker that has hit top form in Collins Mbesuma, who despite being a member of the last AFCON winning team, had no influential role in the team.
This time, Mbesuma will be going to the continental championship in a more influential role and could actually command a starting place after rediscovering his form in the last five months.
But Kakonje's call-up comes as a surprise after being relegated down the pecking order for both his club Napsa Stars and the national team where he was overtaken by both Joshua Titima and Danny Munyau, who has since been dropped despite playing 90 minutes against Tanzania.
In sticking with his promise of maintaining 80 per cent of the players that won him the AFCON title, Renard has retained faith in the three goalkeepers from the last competition.
Also going to South Africa after missing the last edition due to injury and a Confederation of African football (CAF) ban is Israel based midfielder William Njobvu and FC Porto's Emmanuel Mbola respectively.
There is no room for TP Mazembe striker Given Singuluma, who snubbed Renard's call-up when the team regrouped for the Tanzania friendly match last week.
Renard will before January 9 trim his squad to 23 in readiness for the opening Group C match against Ethiopia on January 21.
Zambia's next assignment will be a crunch tie against two-time winners, Nigeria before wrapping up the group duties with a game against Burkina Faso.
The full list of players heading into the final AFCON preparations in South Africa has: Goalkeepers
- Kennedy Mweene (Free States Stars, South Africa), Joshua Titima (Power Dynamos) and Kalililo Kakonje (Napsa Stars).
Stoppila Sunzu, Hichani Himoonde, Francis Kasonde (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Davies Nkausu (Supersport United), Joseph Musonda (Golden Arrows),Chintu Kampamba (unattached), Salulani Phiri (Zanaco), Emmanuel Mbola (FC Porto).
Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Mukuka Mulenga (Power Dynamos), Christopher Katongo, Isaac Chansa (Henan Jianje), Chisamba Lungu (Ural Oblast) , Felix Katongo(Petro Athletico, Angola), Noah Chivuta (Free States Stars, South Africa) and William, Njobvu (Hapoel Beer Sheba, Israel).
Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton, England) Collins Mbesuma (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Jacob Mulenga (Utrecht, Netherlands), James Chamanga (Liaojing Whowin, China), Jonas Sakuwaha (TP Mazembe, DR Congo) and Evans Kangwa (Nkana).