Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
INTERIM national team coach Wedson Nyirenda has hit the point on the head â€“ he wants the Chipolopolo to play quality opposition to prepare for the 2018 World Cup qualifier against the Indomitable Lions.
Nyirenda has requested the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to arrange for two friendly matches before the match against Cameroon, an encounter that could make or break our dreams of a maiden appearance at the soccer showpiece.
He has Ghana and Uganda in mind for friendlies. The teams played to a goalless draw in a World Cup qualifier 12 days ago.
I hope FAZ will be equal to the task and arrange for the two friendlies so that the Chipolopolo travel to Cameroon with a mission of collecting maximum points.
Our national team will not have it easy in Cameroon on November 12, further raising the need for quality opposition to prepare the boys.
Having drawn 1-1 with Algeria in Blida on October 10, the Indomitable Lions will come charging at the Chipolopolo and will certainly be inspired by Nigeriaâ€™s 2-1 win over Zambia in Ndola.
I like being straight or forthright as you may call it â€“ we are considered the whipping boys of the group and should, therefore, prepare adequately if we do not want to turn into a laughing stock.
A bit of history would perhaps refresh our minds. Since 1930 when the World Cup was launched, Zambia have been nowhere near the finals.
In the recent past, Zambia missed qualification for the World Cup by a whisker in 1993 (lost to Morocco 1-0 when Zambia needed a point), 1997 (lost to South Africa 3-0 when a draw was needed) and 2005 (finished third in the group).
There is need to reflect on why Zambia has been failing to qualify for the World Cup.
It is not too late to reflect on the failures and put measures in place, especially when one considers the fact that minnows such as Angola and Togo have been to the World Cup.
Angola topped the group that had the likes of Nigeria in 2005 to make a maiden appearance at the World Cup in 2006.
Togo finished first, relegating Senegal and Zambia into second and third positions respectively in the run-up to the Germany finals in 2006.
With adequate preparations and good planning, it is possible for the Chipolopolo to amass 15 points from the remaining five matches and qualify for the World Cup.
Time to play lousy friendlies is long gone because the bar has already been set high. With all due respect, I donâ€™t expect Zambia to play the likes of Malawi, Qatar or Cuba because there will be no real value added.
If Ghana are not willing to face the Chipolopolo, FAZ should court another West African team for a friendly. I am sure Uganda are willing to face Zambia as they will be preparing to host Congo-Brazzaville in a World Cup qualifier.
It will be to Zambiaâ€™s advantage to face West African opposition so that the players will have a feel of what they should expect from the star-studded Cameroonian side.
I know memories of the 5-1 bashing by Cameroon at the 2008 Ghana Africa Cup of Nations are still fresh. The Indomitable Lions also beat Zambia 3-2 at the continental showpiece in Angola in 2010, but the Chipolopolo defied odds to finish top of Group D and qualified for the quarter-finals.
With the right attitude, Zambia can take on Cameroon punch-for-punch and possibly get less bruised.
Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI