CECILIA ZULU, Lusaka
INTERIM national team coach Wedson Nyirenda says the Chipolopolo will not underrate opponents in the 2019 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations qualifying race as doing so could be costly.
Zambia has been drawn in Group K against Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Namibia.
The qualifying race will run from June 2017 to November 2018.
Nyirenda said in an interview in Lusaka yesterday that in modern football there are no small teams.
â€œThere is no small team. I think the draw is fair but first of all we should not underrate any teamâ€¦itâ€™s what made us fail to qualify for this yearâ€™s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon. We thought we are big, so our approach will be to respect any team in the group and hit them where it matters most.
â€œWe have to take each game as it comes and we have to be serious,â€ he said.
Nyirenda said Guinea Bissau are a force to reckon with and are in Gabon at the expense of Zambia.
Guinea Bissau held the Chipolopolo to a goalless draw at Ndolaâ€™s Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and won 3-2 at home.
The West Africans defied football hierarchy finishing top in Group E with ten points, one better than Congo-Brazzaville while third-placed Zambia managed seven points.
Guinea Bissau face hosts Gabon today in the opening match in Libreville.
On Mozambique, Nyirenda said he has a clue of the Mambasâ€™ system of play.
â€œI think I know Mozambique in and out. They are playing very good football but it all comes down to how you plan and the way you apply yourself. Knowing them is one thing and doing what is needed to be done is another if you donâ€™t do what is needed to be done, you get hit on your head.
â€œKnowing Mozambique is not a passport or guarantee that Zambia will win,â€ he said.
Zambia has never lost to Mozambique.
Nyirenda was at the helm of Mozambican side Ferroviario Beira before he was engaged as Chipolopolo coach.
He said Namibia has improved over the years.
Nyirenda said the fact that Namibia beat Zambia 1-0 in the Plate final at the 2016 Council of Southern African Football Associations Senior Challenge Cup in Windhoek is an indication that they are a good side.
Zambia beat Namibia 6-5 on penalties after tying 3-3 on aggregate in the 2016 Rwanda African Nations Championship qualifying race.
And former national team coach Patrick Phiri described the draws as tricky.
â€œOn paper, these draws look easy, especially for Zambia, but when you look at the teams that are there then you realise it is actually tough. We must not take things for granted. We need to work hard,â€ Phiri said.
He said adequate preparations and planning will be key to Zambiaâ€™s success.
Zambia Sports Fans Association patron Peter Makembo urged the Football Association of Zambia to ensure the Chipolopolo are adequately prepared for the qualifiers.
Makembo said the Chipolopolo should redeem themselves for failing to qualify for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations which starts today in Gabon.
Chipolopolo Soccer Fans Association chairman Yotham Mwanza cautioned the national team against underrating opponents.
CECILIA ZULU, Lusaka