NAIROBI, September 5 – Zambia Team Manager, Lusekelo Kamwambi has stressed the importance of avoiding defeat when they visit Harambee Stars in the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium on Sunday.
The 2012 champions, who had a feel of the venue on Saturday, will be seeking to pick their first win but the Team Managers admitted they expect a tough encounter against a side that will be looking to qualify to the continental showdown for the first time since 2004.
Accompanied by their FA president, Kalusha Bualya, the Chipolopolo will be inspired by experienced players; goal keeper, Kennedy Mweene who plies his trade at Mamelodi Sundowns, Shanghai Shenhua defender, Stopilla Sunzu and skipper, Rainford Kalaba who features for TP Mazembe.
Unlike Stars who have more foreign based players, the Copper Bullets is however, blended with locally based players with a huge chunk of them being on the verge of qualifying for 2016 Rwanda Africa Nations Championships (CHAN).
“Kenya has made strides in football because we are all aware they have good players, one of them is playing in English Premier League and in that past, they have done well, the quality of the game in Kenya has gone high.
“The game will be tough and anything can happen because there is no small team in Africa nowadays. Yes we are the 2012 champions but this is a different ball game all together, Kenya is at home and they want to qualify since its long since they were there,” the Team Manager told Capital Sport.
“They (Kenya) will give it their best and the best we can do is to give it our all and our desire is to pick maximum points. I’m at home in Nairobi so any county can win any where; we can win here are lose at home so what is important is that we are prepared.
“The Kenyan side has two of their players in our Zambian professional league so as much as they have more experienced plays us than us, at the end of the day its only11 players who will be on the pitch. Our biggest intention is to qualify because we have set the pace and we will not take anything less that,” Kamwambi added.
Bwalya, a retired former Chipolopolo winger, said the match could go either way, pointing out that Kenyan football has developed.
“It’s a very difficult game for both teams but Kenya has the home advantage. They have improved and we are worried of the danger they possess but that’s football, the road to Africa Cup is always tough.
“We have a good coach and fantastic players so we hope Zambia will settle down quickly and be able to play our football but it will be a 50/ 50 match,” Bwalya, who managed the team from 2003 -06, underlined.
It will be the 35th meeting between the two sides but if history is anything to go by, Chipolopolo have a better chance of defeating Stars on paper.
Zambia have won 22 of those encounters since the first meeting in1964, as the countries were celebrating their Independence Cup but something that the Copper Bullets cannot forget is their 9-0 biggest win over Kenya in 1978.
Kenya has won two, drawn two and lost one in her last five matches while Zambia has won two, drawn one and lost two of her last five.
The last time the two nations met was during the 2009 Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup held in Nairobi where Kenya lost 2-0 to the team invited as guest in the regional tournament.
Sunday’s encounter will however be an important match for both teams especially after drawing in their openers where Stars played to a 1-1 draw away to Congo Brazzaville whilst Zambia were held to a goalless stalemate at home by minnows Guinea Bissau.
-Players to watch-
Stars head coach, Bobby Williamson will be banking on Southampton midfielder, Victor Wanyama to lift the team, especially after the skipper said he had put the EPL transfer saga behind his back after his move to Tottenham Hotspur collapsed on the final day.
He will be relied upon to marshal the midfield and deliver defense splitting passes with the able support of Gor Mahia’s Collins Okoth as the speedy combination of wingers, Belgian based Ayub Timbe and Greece’s Kalloni new signing, Paul Were do the running on the flanks.
With his current form, new kid on the block, Michael Olunga (Gor) will be expected to be a thorn in the Chipolopolo rear guard with former captain and record scorer, Dennis Oliech also likely to join the front row fray as he tries to redeem himself.
Norway’s Lillestrome first choice keeper, Arnold Origi is a probable start in between the sticks for the first time since May 2014 with Zambia’s Zesco United, David ‘Calabar’ Owino, Thika United left-back, David Odhiambo, Malaysian based Lawrence Olum and Brian Mandela who plies his trade in South Africa, the expected starters in the defence.
For Zambia, Aaron Katebe who put a man of the match display when they faced Guinea Bissau will be the man to watch while Kalaba, who had a good showdown at this year’s Nations Cup where they bowed out in the group stage is another danger man in the midfield.
Arnold Origi, David ‘Calabar’ Owino, Dennis Odhiambo, Lawrence Olum, Brian Mandela, Victor Wanyama, Collins Okoth, Paul Were, Ayub Timbe, Michael Olunga, Dennis Oliech.
Kennedy Mweene, Stoppila Sunzu, Emmanuel Mbola, Aaron Katebe, Christopher Munthali, Nathan Sinkala, Kondwani Mtonga, Lubambo Musonda, Collins Mbesuma, Rainford Kalaba and Winston Kalengo.