26 January 2013

Zambia: Renard Thanks Chipolopolo

ZAMBIA coach, Herve Renard has thanked his charges for rising to the occasion to hold arch rivals, Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in a crunch Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group C match in Nelspruit, South Africa.

With a good Zambian crowd cheering the Chipolopolo at Mbombela Stadium, Renard said yesterday's penultimate group match was a tactical one and that he was thankful with a good come back from his charges after the Super Eagles had taken the lead.

Renard said Zambia made a mistake to concede a goal on a difficult sandy pitch but still held their own to ensure a share of spoils.

"It was a tactical game and we made a mistake to concede the goal on a difficult pitch to play on which has got a lot of sand. Chisamba made a a mistake. Thankfully, we had a good comeback after missing two good scoring opportunities through (Rainford) Kalaba and (Collins) Mbesuma," he said.

The 2012 AFCON-winning coach said he was happy with the result under the prevailing circumstances especially that Nigeria never lost a game last year.

"I'm happy with the result under the circumstances, Nigeria never lost a game in 2012. So we played a good game," the Frenchman said.

First-choice goalkeeper, Kennedy Mweene, who picked up the Orange Man-of-the-match award, converted from the penalty spot to ensure the spoils were shared in Group C.

Nigerian coach, Stephen Keshi said while he was targeting three points from the encounter, yesterday's match was a difficult one as the Super Eagles were facing the African champions.

Keshi also defended his star player, John Obi Mikel for missing a penalty, saying the Chelsea midfielder had always been scoring from the spot-kick.

He, however, conceded that there were no specialists in penalties and that while Mikel, a best kicker missed his chance against Zambia, Nigeria just needed to forge ahead and hope for the best result against Ethiopia in their final Group C match on Tuesday.

"In penalties, you don't have specialists. Mikel is the best kicker. Even in the last game (AFCON qualifier) against Liberia, a penalty was scored by Mikel. Now, we just have to forge ahead," the 1994 AFCON winning captain for Nigeria said.

In yesterday's match, Renard got his wish after a good number of Zambian fans made it to Mbombela Stadium to cheer the team.

Renard, clad in a navy blue suit, made a passionate plea to the fans to come in numbers and rally behind the team, and the Chipolopolo enthusiasts made their presence felt with their vibrant songs which were dominant in the stadium prior to kick off as the team made their way to warm up.

Chipolopolo defender Stoppila Sunzu was the name the fans shouted out loud whenever he touched the ball.

And a soccer fan, Charles Kasia, said the onus was on fans to turn up in numbers and support the Chipolopolo despite the past results, adding that the reigning African Champions need the support of all Zambians.

Back home, the fans were consoled by Mweene's equaliser and hoped for a better outing against Burkina Faso on January 29 in the final Group C match.

And Zambia's High Commission in South Africa has advised all traveling Chipolopolo fans to verify the authenticity of service providers in that country with the mission office in Pretoria.

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