By NDINAWE SIMPELWE in Marrakech, Morocco -
ZAMBIA tonight gets the sternest of tests in their resolve to win the 2018 African Nations Championship (CHAN) title when Sudan comes calling in a quarter-final clash at the Stade de Marrakech.
The game kicks off at 21:30 hours Zambian time.
After impressing in the group stage, Zambia has been tipped by many pundits to reach the finals and giving the team with a challenge of having to live up to that billing tonight.
Coach Wedson Nyirenda and his assistant Aggrey Chiyangi however, think the task will not be easy.
“We have worked very hard at this tournament so far. At this stage, we know that it is not going to be any easier especially against Sudan. But we have seen how they play and we have prepared for them,” Chiyangi said.
Zambia topped Group B after beating Uganda and Ivory Coast before a disappointing draw against Namibia, that showing mirrored by Sudan in Group A as they defeated Guinea and Mauritania before drawing with hosts and favourites Morocco, but they finished second.
Nyirenda, after the drab game against Namibia, admitted Zambia was playing with pressure after being tipped as favourites to reach the finals but he should remain proud his side did not lose despite playing badly.
Rightly,he was still happy he has the players who can handle the pressure and that he expects them to rise to the occasion especially going back to Marrakech for the quarter-final where they won both games they played there.
“Coming back to Marrakech is like coming back home. We have taken it as our home town. We have been very comfortable playing in Marrakech. The players have gotten used to playing here. But like I said, Sudan is not a pushover, they are very strong,” Chiyangi added.
Sudan coach Logarusic Zdravko Hrvatsko said Zambia was one of the strongest sides at the tournament and his side will go into the game as underdogs.
He warned however that Zambia will have to work extra hard for the win as Sudan will fight for everything.
The last time the two sides met at a regional tournament was at the 2013 CECAFA Senior Challenge where Sudan won 2-1 with an extra time goal.
Tonight, the coach will need Augustine Mulenga, the team’s leading scorer on three goals,to be at his best as his performance always has a direct influence on the squad.
Chipolopolo can also rely on the pace of winger Ernest Mbewe who has provided three assists at the tournament so far and hope Alex Ng’onga absence will not be felt.
That duty has been left to young Lazarous Kambole who is on two goals though he has been guilty of missing clear chances while Friday Samu and Mike Katiba have been second fiddle after coming from the bench.
Dependable right back Simon Silwimba is suspended for this match, a situation that might see Donashano Malama sent out wide to fill up with his midfield central position expected to be taken by John Mwangani to work with Kondwani Mtonga.
The solid central defence pair of Ziyo Tembo and Adrian Chama should continue with Toaster Nsabata expected to retain his position between the sticks.