2 February 2013

Zambia: I Won't Change Squad - Renard

DESPITE putting up an unimpressive showing at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, Zambia coach, Herve Renard has vowed to maintain the bulk of the Chipolopolo squad as the team shifts attention to the forthcoming FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying series next month.

Renard said there would be no major changes to the squad that resumes an even greater quest of qualifying to the World Cup finals in Brazil.

Speaking on arrival with other members of squad on Thursday night at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka from an ill-fated AFCON title defence crusade, Renard said he would only make minor and necessary adjustments to the team.

"Just as we went to the 2013 Africa Cup with just five changes from the last Africa Cup, I'll not make major changes. Maybe just a few because we have a strong team and I think we can qualify to the World Cup if we focus," he said.

Renard said it was not necessary for him to make several changes because what he had was a strong team which was just unfortunate to be knocked out of the AFCON early.

After winning the 2012 AFCON, Renard returned to the same stage a year later with almost the entire team apart from five players.

He said Zambia's exit at the group stage level was caused by a number of factors.

Renard mentioned the state of the Mbombela Stadium pitch as one factor that affected his team's performance.

He said while the bad pitch affected both teams in each match, Zambia's style of play, which is short passes on the ground, was completely messed up.

Renard also said Zambia's failure to beat Ethiopia in the group opener was the killer blow which affected the team in the following games as the players were under pressure.

He said even after putting up a stronger performance against Nigeria and Burkina Faso, the Chipolopolo just failed to score.

"We played our best game against Burkina Faso, but we failed to score, a year ago, we could have scored in that game, it was unfortunate but we can now look forward to going to Brazil," he said.

And Government has urged the team to look forward to Brazil and not continue moaning about the 2013 AFCON failure as the road ahead was what really mattered for Zambia since the Chipolopolo had won continental crown before.

Sports Permanent Secretary Agnes Musunga who received the team said that Government was backing the team so that it qualifies to the World Cup finals in Brazil and that it would take all necessary steps to ensure that the team was well prepared and motivated.

"It's a fact, Government and the Zambians expected a lot from you but we still believe in you, you have done it before and you can do it again. But remember that the journey ahead is what matters. South Africa was a learning curve," she said.

The team was received by a handful of supporters which was a far cry from the situation 11 months ago when the airport was jam-packed as Zambia returned with the trophy with Renard saying he was shocked his team even got fans and Government to receive them.

The Frenchman said the warm reception accorded to the team just proved how much Government and all Zambians cherished the game and that should be a motivator for doing even better.

Renard now has a mammoth task of taking the Chipolopolo to Brazil.

Zambia tops Group C in the World Cup qualifiers with six points from two matches, three ahead of arch rivals, Ghana.

The Chipolopolo will play Lesotho in the next two matches before welcoming Sudan and then going for the big and final clash in Ghana.

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