By SANDRA MWILA
ZAMBIA national football team coach Wedson Nyirenda had his eye on the team’s opening game against Uganda on Sunday as the party flew out to South Africa en-route to Morocco for the 2018 Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament.
Nyirenda tried to play down having to make do with nondescript preparatory games in the run-up to the tournament, saying what was important was to get off to a winning start when his men run out against the rejuvenated Cranes.
The FAZ announced yesterday that Zambia would today play top Premiership side Orlando Pirates in Johannesburg before flying to Morocco.
Nyirenda had hoped for more preparatory games when he designed his camp for the CHAN but has had to accommodate the wishes of his employers who have sanctioned a much-watered down training programme.
In pre-departure interviews with the media, he chose to look on the bright side, saying the Orlando Pirates friendly would help him gauge his team before playing the opening game on Sunday.
“It is will be a good preparation test for the tournament, Pirates is a good team and will enhance our preparations. We will spot the strength and weaknesses in the team. We need to see the organisation of the team, how it is matching with concepts in all departments.
“It will be important before we play our first game at the tournament,” he said.
This Orlando Pirates friendly comes days after the Chipolopolo played and beat little-known Zambian Division-One promotion side Circuit City at Nkoloma Stadium.
The team flew-out to South Africa yesterday and are expected to connect to Morocco today at 18:00 via Dubai.
Nyirenda said before departure declared that his chargers were ready for the tournament that he has set his mind on winning.
He said the game against Uganda was an important fixture which was a must-win encounter to set the tone for the tournament.
“The Uganda game is the most important one, we need the three points to start on a good page and set the pace for the tournament,” Nyirenda said
FAZ General Secretary Ponga Liwewe announced the Buccaneers’ friendly match saying this was due to the changes in the initial programme.
“There has been a change is schedule; the team will not fly straight to Morocco. They will have a stop-over in South Africa to play Orlando Pirates in the morning tomorrow (today) and connect via Dubai in the evening,” Liwewe said.
Liwewe said the Pirates game would be the only friendly match the team would play to avoid injuries ahead of the tournament that kicks off on Saturday.
Zambia are in Group B and start their campaign for the tournament with a game against Uganda on Sunday before taking on Ivory Coast on Thursday and would complete their group games with a tie against Namibia on Monday January 22.