22 March 2019

Namibia/Zambia: Warriors Raise Shields for Copper Bullets

THE Brave Warriors are in for a taxing battle with the Chipolopolo at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday as they look to finalise qualification for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, say Zambia-based duo Tiberius Lombard and Petrus Shitembi.

The Lusaka Dynamos pair anticipate their hosts to be fired up for the match even though 2012 Afcon winners Zambia are not in contention for a place at the finals set for 21 June to 19 July in Egypt.

While Namibia require only a point to advance to their third nations cup, Zambia languish bottom of Group K following a forgetful qualification campaign.

The Brave Warriors are taking the mammoth occasion and weight of expectation back home in their stride, said Lombard.

"Everything is tops. The atmosphere in camp is great and full of positive vibes. We are pushing at training and are very focused," the tough tackling defender told The Namibian Sport.

Having spent two seasons playing in the Zambian top flight, Lombard is arguably best placed to gauge the mentality of the home side.

"I haven't spoken to them about the match, but it's clear it won't be easy at all. They won't give it to us so we need to fight for it," Lombard said.

"Zambia is a very strong country and they have called up a great squad with quality players so that tells you already that they are coming for business. But I'm very confident in our squad. We are going to get a win and we are preparing very well for it. Its going to be a great game," he added confidently.

Despite their recent tribulations, which include substantive head coach Sven Vandenbroeck getting suspended by the Football Association of Zambia for disciplinary reasons and sent on forced leave until his contract expires on March 31, Zambia remain a formidable unit, Shitembi warned.

"The nerves are there but I feel it's the good kind. We know what's at stake and how monumental the occasion will be," said the playmaker, who along with fellow attacking midfielder Willy Stephanus joined Lombard at Lusaka Dynamos in January.

"I think it'll be a balanced match even given the fact that our opponents don't have anything to play for. But the fact still remains that they are at home and obviously playing with a bit of comfort as opposed to us," he said.

That expectation is reinforced by the Zambian camp, with stand-in Copper Bullets head coach Aggrey Chiyangi calling on his charges to end their poor run in style.

Beating Namibia on Saturday will be a matter of defending national pride, following an abysmal qualification campaign, said recalled Chipolopolo striker Roger Kola.

"We have to win because we are at home. We are playing for pride, we have to finish on a good note," Kola told Zambian media this week.

The match also has added significance for both nations given the rivalry that exists between the two neighbours. Zambia shade the head-to-head, with seven wins, six draws and three defeats since the first meeting in 1994.

However, six of the last 10 encounters have ended in draws, including last years' Cosafa Cup quarter-final tie which was goalless after 90 minutes with Zambia eventually winning 4-3 in a penalty shootout.

Chiyangi for one understands the historical significance of the clash and is not treating Saturday's showdown as a dead rubber.

"We know that the result will not change anything. What is important for us is we are playing for national pride, because we have to make sure that we win this game despite it not having any impact on the qualifications," Chiyangi told Zambian media earlier this week.

Even with victory, Zambia will end the qualification campaign bottom of the group. With seven points thus far, Mozambique in third can still reach Egypt 2019 with a win away to group leaders Guinea-Bissau, who only need to avoid defeat to qualify.

"We have spoken to the players to reflect on why they are here, this is not just a gathering. They are here for a purpose," Chiyangi stressed.

"Everyone has to be serious. We know that it won't be an easy game because Namibia are going to fight for their lives because if they win, they will qualify. We are going to be ready for them," said Chiyangi, who named a strong selection as a declaration of intent.

The South African based quartet of Augustine Mulenga, Justin Shonga, Salulani Phiri and Musonda Mwape are in the side.

Tanzanian based midfielder Clatous Chota Chama also joined the squad on Monday, but veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene was a late withdrawal due to injury.

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