By CHAPADONGO LUNGU
PEDIGREE and history are on Zambiaâ€™s side today as the Chipolopolo face Mozambique at Ndolaâ€™s Levy Mwanawasa Stadium to kickstart their journey to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations Morocco will host.
Along the way, Zambia will face Cape Verde and Niger, other contestants in Group F, who have rallied to prominence in the last two years but with a sorry rating on the charts.
While Zambia and Mozambique are in the same group, they are in different classes. That is one. And while the Chipolopolo have been to the Africa
Cup 16 times and have won the coveted trophy once – 2012, Mozambique have been virtual bridesmaids, qualifying only four times.
Even in the regional Cosafa Castle Cup, Zambia have performed far much better, winning the title four times while Mozambique have, at best, been mere participants.
It is such contrasting statistics that give Zambia an edge going into todayâ€™s match in Ndola as the town coincidentally loses its status of being the only one qualifying to host a match of that magnitude following the re-emergence of Lusaka, which boasts the newest football cathedral in Zambia â€“ National Heroes Stadium.
Zambia and Mozambique have met 13 times and the Chipolopoloâ€™s supremacy is demonstrated by a whopping 11 victories, with no loss.
Such is the courage Zambia are likely to ride on in pursuit of an eternally unblemished record against the Mambas, whose coach Jao Chissano admitted his team can only hope for an upset.
Fresh is Zambiaâ€™s 5-0 aggregate win against the Mambas in the qualifiers for the 2012 edition. While Zambia may have lost a bit of rhythm since then, they have lost none of the players whose goals eliminated Mozambique.
Skipper Christopher Katongo was central to Mozambiqueâ€™s destruction and could still be the main man as Zambia coach Honour Janza also seeks to start his reign on strong footing.
â€œWe are ready for Mozambique and our fans should rally behind us. We want to start with a win,â€ Katongo said.
Turkey-based striker Jacob Mulenga, who is expected to start in attack with Mpumalanga Black Aces pointman Collins Mbesuma, is just as confident.
â€œWe want to start our qualifying campaign on a winning note by beating Mozambique. This is a very important match for us, which we need to win at all cost before travelling to Cape Verde for our next match,â€ Mulenga said.
Mulenga and Mbesuma will be suppor ted by versatile Rainford Kalaba, Chisamba Lungu and Nathan Sinkala in what is expected to be an offensive 4-4-2 system.
Kennedy Mweene is in his 10th year as Zambiaâ€™s top goalkeeper and nothing will change during this match as the Mambas will try to strike through their marksman, Bone Uafero, who plays for Fortuna Cologne in Germany.
Stopilla Sunzu will remain Zambiaâ€™s symbol of power at the heat of defence along with Christopher Munthali and overlapping Emmanuel Mbola and Kabaso Chongo to complete the line-up.
With such a rich cast, Mozambique are likely to buckle though the man with the last word about this series is Janza.
â€œEveryone is looking ready for the match and I am happy with the way they [players] are responding to training. They are all putting in their best, which is good for the team,â€ Janza said.
But Chissano said the Mambas will strive to cause an upset.
â€œWe are aware of the challenge. We canâ€™t go to war knowing you will be defeated. The team has prepared well and will give the best and get the result on Saturday [tomorrow]. It will be a difficult game like any other game in the group will be difficult. We are well
aware that Mozambique has never won a game in Zambia but we will do our best,â€ Chissano said.
It is expected that Zambia will top Group F but their dominance must go beyond Mozambique; they should also edge past Cape Verde (their next opponents next Wednesday) and Niger.
Top two teams in each of the seven groups, the best second-placed and hosts Morocco will make the finalists at the biennial tournament, whose title Nigeria are defending.
Zambiaâ€™s probable starting line-up Mweene, Chongo, Mbola, Munthali, Sunzu, Sinkala, Lungu, Kalaba, Mulenga, Katongo, Mbesuma.
By CHAPADONGO LUNGU