Zambia: Chipolopolo U.S Training Tempo

AFTER resting on New Year's Day, African football champions, Zambia resume the final phase of intensive preparations for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in South Africa today with defender Emmanuel Mbola joining the squad.

As the kick-off of the 29th edition of AFCON looms on January 19 in Johannesburg, the Chipolopolo are now targeting to build on their earlier preparations in their quest to retain the title.

Before breaking off for a day, it was strict business for the Chipolopolo as the players were taken through their paces by coach Herve Renard and his technical staff.

Zambia has lined up five testing training matches to gauge the team's readiness in the last round of preparations, starting with this Saturday's tie against fellow AFCON finalists, Angola.

"Five days into the New Year, we want to play Angola on the 5th. We are looking at that match before turning our attention to the others against Namibia and Swaziland. But the other international training fixtures against Morocco on 8th January and Norway on the 12th remain unchanged," Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) spokesperson, Erick Mwanza said.

Mwanza said the one day break yesterday allowed the team to reflect on the 2012 successes and refocus of the assignments that awaited them in 2013, beginning with the AFCON.

He said the squad wrapped up the 2012 in business-like mood with excellent training sessions which set the Chipolopolo on course to defend the continental crown.

"We are pleased with the way the team has been working. We have ended the year on a very good note; a hard working way because the squad has continued with its training in Johannesburg," Mwanza said.

The FAZ media and communications manager described the mood in camp as excellent and that there was a wonderful team spirit among the players.

Mwanza said the squad was injury-free which was bonus as Renard focused on bringing out the best from the players ahead of the Chipolopolo's opening Group C match against Ethiopia on January 21.

With the Portugal-based Mbola in camp, Renard will today work with 23 of the 26 players summoned for pre-AFCON preparations.

Mwanza also said defender Stoppila Sunzu was still in Lusaka sorting out his personal business and that he had the blessings from Renard.

Contrary to some media reports that he flew out to Johannesburg on Monday, Mwanza said as far as FAZ was concerned Sunzu was still in Lusaka.

Sunzu is expected to link up with the squad after completing his club football business.

The towering defender is earmarked to join struggling English Premiership side, Reading from DR Congo's TP Mazembe but the visa hitch has delayed his departure for him to complete a dream move.

However, sources said Sunzu is expected to have his visa ready by tomorrow but his deal to Reading could be in danger because of the delays.

Apart from Sunzu, other players yet to join the squad at their Milpark camping site are strikers Jacob Mulenga of Dutch side, FC Utrecht and English Premiership, Southampton's Emmanuel Mayuka.

The duo is expected in South Africa this Sunday to complete the 26-man provisional squad.

Mayuka posted on his social network facebook fans page that he was looking forward to the AFCON while another striker Collins Mbesuma is hoping for a memorable outing.

Renard is expected to name his final 23-man squad for the AFCON finals.

The Confederation of Africa Football has set January 9 as deadline for the 16 AFCON finalists to submit their team lists.

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