Chipolopolo on Knife edge
The Chipolopolo boys host Lesotho hoping to redeem themselves and put their 2014 World Cup qualifying race back on track this Saturday.
Herve Renard’s side must make amends at home on June 8 at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola after a 10-man Zambia conceded a late equaliser in the first leg in Maseru on March 24 to finish 1-1.
The victory saw Zambia’s lead cut from three to one point in Group D ahead of second placed Ghana on seven and six points respectively after three rounds of games played.
Southampton striker Emmanuel Mayuka has told MTN Football website that a home win is vital at Zambia’s famed fortress in Ndola.
“Everyone knows that the game against Lesotho is a must win game we have to work extremely hard and win that game,” Mayuka said.
“We know the importance of the game and we will just have to work as a team and get the result that we need.”
Meanwhile, Renard’s side has been hit with injuries to two key players including suspension to first choice goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene following his red card in Maseru.
Midfielder Rainford Kalaba is out due to a calf injury while defender Stopilla Sunzu is a medium-term absentee following knee surgery on May 10.
On the bright side, Dutch-based striker Jacob Mulenga of FC Utrecht returns after missing the first leg on medical advice from his club not to play on artificial turf to avoid any potential injuries.
Mulenga’s return is a boost for Zambia’s frontline that has struggled to score goals after picking up just two wins in their last nine international matches since November 14.
Victory at home in Ndola where Zambia is unbeaten in over 40 years will keep Chipolopolo at the summit of Group D ahead of the grudge match against Sudan at the same venue on June 15.
Meanwhile the coaching bench says Rainford Kalaba will be missed in a game against Lesotho this Saturday.
Zambia technical director and assistant coach Honour Janza says the influential Zambia playmaker from DR Congo club TP Mazembe has been ruled out of Saturdays 2014 World Cup Group D qualifier against Lesotho at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola due to a calf injury he sustained on club duty a fortnight ago in Lubumbashi.
Kalaba joins defender and club mate Stopilla Sunzu in the sick bay on top of Zambia missing first-choice goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene who is suspended for this weekend’s game against Lesotho.
“Ultimately it is the performance of every player in the 11 to work and put in 100 percent,” Janza said.
“So ideally we will move on with or without Kalaba but of course with the conscience that we will miss him just like we will miss Sunzu.
“Everybody as we said is very important in the team.
“All the players we called up are important and if they pick up injuries we will always miss them.”
Kalaba’s absence will thrust Power Dynamos midfielder Mukuka Mulenga into the spotlight in the playmaker role on Saturday.
Zambia leads Group (D) heading into the fourth round qualifier against third from bottom Lesotho on seven and two points respectively.
And Zambia on Wednesday beat lower league side Nkwiza 2-1 in their final closed door friendly ahead of Saturdays clash against Lesotho.
The 2012 African champions played there last training game under camera backed by heavy security at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola where they will host Lesotho in a 2014 FIFA World Cup Group D qualifier at the same venue.
Collins Mbesuma put Zambia ahead in the opening half after the Orlando Pirates striker headed-in a corner from Fwayo Tembo midway through the first half of the Friendly played on Wednesday afternoon.
Nkwiza, who are currently sixth on the FAZ Division One North league and chasing promotion to the MTN/FAZ Super Division, equalised on the nick of half-time via a penalty by converted by Francis Mulenga.
Southampton striker Emmanuel Mayuka scored Zambia’s winner in the second half to pick up his second successive goal in a training game since the team when into camp in Ndola on May 25.
The win comes exactly seven days after Zambia lost 2-1 to Super Division league leaders Nkana in Kitwe in a friendly that Mayuka scored Renard’s sides consolation from the penalty spot.
Now Ghana captain Asamoah Gyan has assured victory against Sudan on Friday to keep their 2014 FIFA World Cup dream alive.
The Black Stars will play the Falcons of Jediane at the Al Merreikh Stadium in Omdurman in a Group D contest.
The 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists have not lost against coach Mohamed Abdallah Mazda in four matches since 2010 but will face fierce opposition this time.
After five days of camping in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Gyan has guaranteed victory which will keep them in the race for qualification to the next stage.
“We have been getting lots of encouragement and support from Ghanaians ahead of key matches like Friday’s game against Sudan,” Gyan is quoted by the Ghana FA’s official website.
“In football players need inspiration and efforts like this inspires us the players a lot.
“The most important thing for us are the two matches we will play over the next few days. I want to assure Ghanaians that we will get the victory needed.”
Gyan opened the scoring as the Black Stars thumped Sudan 4-0 in Kumasi back in March.