Chipolopolo, Uganda clash for Africa Cup slot

ChipolopoloAFRICA champions Zambia are psyched up to secure their passage to the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals, but fully aware that Uganda are just as keen to win today’s decisive qualifier in Kampala.
It is not the shame of not qualifying for the finals that has fired up the Chipolopolo, but the belief that they are the best and deserve to be among the best when South Africa hosts the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations finals in four months time.
“Every player is prepared for this game,” Chipolopolo skipper Christopher Katongo said on arrival here on Thursday night after Zambia’s training camp in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Carrying the slenderest of advantages from the first leg home – 1-0 – Zambia will be at the giant Namboole Stadium before boisterous Uganda fans looking to build up the narrow win to qualify for the finals and defend the coveted crown won in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon earlier in the year.
Zambia are not ready for the dubious title of maiden African champions failing to qualify for the biennial tournament, which will from 2013 be hosted odd-numbered years.
Former champions Egypt failed to qualify for the 2012 finals and will again not be at the 2013 finals, but they have the consolation of winning the Africa Cup title three times on a trot – 2006, 2008 and 2010.
The Chipolopolo are well aware of the threat Uganda poses in this encounter, particularly at Namboole Stadium, dubbed the slaughter house for visiting teams.
“We have heard about the stadium and the history of Uganda dominating at home,” Katongo said.
“But for us that doesn’t matter because we have broken some records of other teams.  The most important thing is to qualify.”
For Uganda, the Africa Cup finals slot has been elusive since their last qualification in 1978 and the match against the Chipolopolo seems an opportunity for redeeming their misfortunes and the first qualification in 34 years.
Uganda will be banking on the 12th man – home support – at Namboole Stadium to enhance their quest.
The technical men on opposing benches have contrasting pre-match fortunes:
Zambia coach Herve Renard will be missing his influential midfield maestro Rainford Kalaba through injury and striker Jacob Mulenga through a family bereavement.
Renard’s opposite, Bobby Williamson, will be welcoming the return of strikers Geoffrey Massa, who plays in Cyprus, and Mussa Mudde, just released by a club in Tanzania.
With Kalaba out of the picture Renard will be making adjustments to his usual starting 11.
The mercurial FC Ural midfielder in Russia Chisamba Lungu is likely to be given the task to break down the Cranes and provide attacking support to Emmanuel Mayuka and skipper Christopher Katongo, in a two-pronged attack.
El Merreikh speedy winger Jonas Sakuwaha can also play a similar role but in a more attack-optioned situation with the Southampton and Katongo, who is enjoying a rich vein of form at Henan Jianye in China.
A forceful James Chamanga, who may be given a start ahead of Mayuka, can also be another option as Renard may seek someone to bully Uganda defenders of Andrew Mwesigwa and Simeon Massa, who accounted for themselves well in the Ndola clash while they will maintain faith South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
Isaac Chansa and Nathan Sinkala will be required to play in more defensive positions to close down Uganda’s Hassan Wasswa and Moses Oloya who are aiming to pull off an outright victory of at least two unanswered goals to squeeze their way to the finals.
At the back, Zambia’s faithful back-four formation will be maintained with Hichani Himoonde and Stopilla Sunzu bringing their experienced partnership from Democratic Republic of Congo side TP Mazembe to the central defence.
Versatile defender Davies Nkausu is a certainty at right back with Emmanuel Mbola likely to play the left-back role although the better experienced and fit-again Joseph Musonda could start.
The imposing Kennedy Mweene will be in goal and has to be at the utmost vigilance to command his area.
Permutations favour Zambia.  A draw will be enough for Zambia to book their passage to the Africa Cup.  Zambia could lose 2-1 and still qualify, but Renard and his boys are not leaving anything to chance.
They are going for an outright win not necessarily to break Ugandans’ hearts and end the Namboole Stadium record, but just to ensure that the Chipolopolo will be in South Africa in four months’ time to defend the Africa title.
On arrival in Uganda, the team was greeted by Ugandans carrying placards most of which read: `Uganda 3 Zambia 0’, but Katongo says missing out of the 2013 Africa Cup finals in South Africa is out of the question.
Probable line-ups:
Zambia – Kennedy Mweene, Davies Nkausu, Emmanuel Mbola, Hichani Himoonde, Stopilla Sunzu, Nathan Sinkala, Jonas Sakuwaha, Isaac Chansa, Emmanuel Mayuka, Christopher Katongo and Chisamba Lungu.
Uganda – Denis Onyango, Andrew Mwesigwa, Simeon Massa, Godfrey Walusimbi, Henry Kalungi, Hassan Waswa, Moses Oloya, Geoffrey Kizito, Emmanuel Okwi, Tonny Mawejje and Mike Serumaga.

source: dailymail