29 January 2013

Zambia: It's Do or Die for Zambia

Photo: Chris Ricco/Backpagepix
Burkinabe players and fans celebrate their progress to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.

Nelspruit — CHAMPIONS Zambia will tonight be aiming for a win over the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Group C leaders, Burkina Faso, and also avoid an early stage elimination when the two sides clash at Mbombela Stadium at 19:00 hours.

Zambia, who have not been convincing so far since winning the AFCON trophy in Gabon last year, need to win their match against Burkina Faso to avoid a group stage exit.

Algeria are the last title holders to have been eliminated at group stage in 1992.

The Chipolopolo drew their opening two matches against Ethiopia and Nigeria and now find themselves in a tricky situation to defend the AFCON title as anything less than a win would see Zambia surrendering the title in the group stages.

Zambia last played Burkina Faso to a 1-1 draw during the 2000 AFCON hosted by Nigeria having beaten the side 5-1 during the 1996 competition which saw the Chipolopolo finish third at the tournament won by South Africa.

But coach Herve Renard said Zambia's 2013 AFCON quarter-final equation against Burkina Faso tonight at Mbombela Stadium was a simple-win and qualify.

Renard said in a pre-match Press conference at Protea Hotel yesterday that the team's destiny was in their hands.

Renard also hinted on making some changes in the match against Burkina Faso, saying he had always explained to the players whenever he made changes.

"As I said last time, we made mistakes against Nigeria having started well until when we conceded in the 60 minute.

The team that will play Burkina Faso will not be the same as the one that played Nigeria. I make changes and always explain to the players whenever I make a change," he said.

On his opponents' scoring abilities, Renard said he had been following the French League where the likes of Burkina Faso striker Alain Traore plays but that his team would need to contend with the West African side.

Renard said overconfidence could have contributed to the team's failure to win but that the team put up a good performance against Nigeria.

He said football always changed and that his team had not been efficient in front of goal.

Chipolopolo captain, Christopher Katongo said every player was confident of qualifying and positive of a good result.

Katongo said it was too early to judge the Chipolopolo based on the two matches played.

"For now, we need to wait for the next 90 minutes, it is too early to judge us now. Every player is remaining positive to ensure that we get the quarter-final place. Elimination is not on our minds now we are focused on winning," Katongo said.

Katongo said the most important thing was to play as a team and not worrying about where individual players feature at club level.

"You can play for the best sides in the World but it will not matter if you do not put in your best for the national soccer team. What matters is playing as a unit and getting the result," he said.

Burkina Faso leads Group C with four points and a win or draw would be enough to send them through to the next round, while Zambia and Nigeria, both on two points, need to win their matches to be sure of qualification.

Should the two teams tie after the group stage, Confederation of African Football (CAF) will look at the points earned in the match or matches played between the teams concerned before going to look at the goal difference in the matches between the teams.

CAF will then look at the number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned and number of away goals scored in the matches between the teams, goal difference in all group matches.

The number of goals scored in all group matches will be looked at and finally drawing of lots by the organising committee would be conducted should the concerned teams still be found tied.

Another team with a mathematical chance of clinching a quarter-final place is Ethiopia, who are bottom of the group with a point. But a win for them over Nigeria coupled with a Zambia defeat to Burkina Faso would see the 1962 champions going through on four points.

Thus making today's game a make-or-break tie for the Chipolopolo, who need to rise up to the occasion and win as whatever happens in the other match will not have an effect on Zambia's qualification quest save for who finishes top of the group.

The winner of the group will play either Tunisia or Togo who will be battling it out for second finish in Group D behind winners Ivory Coast, on six points and better head-to-head over the two sides should the 2012 AFCON finalists lose against Algeria.

"The important thing is to secure qualification before talking about which team Zambia plays in the quarter-finals. We should win our match and then see what position we shall finish then we can concentrate on which team we play," Renard said.

Renard would be hoping for a more improved performance from his side and better still an improvement in front of goal. While there are no major worries in the goalkeeping department, there is need for other areas to be polished.

In defence, Joseph Musonda was solid and should continue alongside Stoppila Sunzu and Davies Nkausu, who had a good game playing ahead of Hichani Himoonde, who looked out of form against Ethiopia, but his return will be welcome to contend with the physically-built Burkinabe.

Emmanuel Mbola should improve on his ball delivery should he be given a chance to start as his finish against Nigeria was poor, while Nathan Sinkala, Rainford Kalaba and Isaac Chansa were not bad but should improve their game.

Collins Mbesuma should start going by his performance and physical appearance to deal with the Burkina Faso defenders and either Emmanuel Mayuka or Jacob Mulenga can partner the Orlando Pirates talisman.

Zambia has been having problems with crosses from the wings which have not been effective and maybe Renard can either start or rest his captain Christopher Katongo and give chance to Jonas Sakuwaha in the flanks.

Burkina Faso were just superb, beating Ethiopia 4-0, a highest score of the tournament so far, and as their coach Paul Put said, they will be ready for Zambia and that the team were at the AFCON finals to prove a point.

The West African side showed true determination and character, holding off Ethiopia to score three goals even when they were a man down and that is the determination Zambia will need to be wary of.

"I will only answer you that question if Burkina Faso will win after the game tomorrow. It will be a tough game which will require my boys to be fully concentrated on the match and remain positive to win the match," coach Paul Put said during a pre-match Press conference yesterday.

Put is confident that his team will secure qualification and will be relying on the likes of Alain Traore, Charles Kabore will be up and running to secure him the qualification.

Probable line up:

Kennedy Mweene, Davies Nkausu, Joseph Musonda, Hichani Himoonde,Stoppila Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala, Chisamba Lungu, Isaac Chansa, Emmanuel Mayuka, Christopher Katongo, Rainford Kalaba.

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