Goal-shy strikers threaten to derail Zambia

2010-01-08 10:15

Zambia coach Herve Renard needs only a few seconds to discover the

problem threatening to derail ambitions of an African Nations Cup quarter-finals

place.

In 10 qualifying matches leading to Angola, Chipolopolo (Copper

Bullets) managed to score a miserly four goals and no player was on target more

than once for a national team with a dismal recent Cup record.

Since finishing third in 1996, Zambia have qualified for five of

six tournaments and made a first round exit every time.

Renard, at 41 the youngest of five French coaches who will perform

sideline patrols in Angola, has vowed to do better and set his squad a

quarter-finals target.

That will not be easy in Group D, where revitalised Cameroon are

favourites and considered potential champions, Tunisia have much to prove after

falling at the final World Cup hurdle, and Gabon boast a young squad packed with

promise.

“Our target is to reach the second round,” stressed Renard to

Zambian reporters before heading for a pre-tournament camp in South Africa where

Chipolopolo defeated Mozambique and held Nigeria.

“In life one makes progress step by step. When I arrived in this

country my ambition was to qualify for the African Nations Cup. Now we want to

go to the next step.”

But poor finishing continued to plague the team in warm-up games as

they struck just one against Mozambique and none against Nigeria and Renard is

running short of time to discover a solution.

Germany-based captain Christopher Katongo offers the best hope as

he was a consistent scorer at international level until affected by the malaise

that gripped the entire team during the 2010 qualifiers.

And while Zambia did face formidable qualifying opponents in Togo,

Egypt and Algeria, the same cannot be said of minnows Swaziland and Rwanda, who

conceded only one goal each over 180 minutes.

China-based James Chamanga and Collins Mbesuma of South African

club Moroka Swallows are potential partners for Katongo, whose younger brother

Felix is a likely midfield starter.

Many of the squad play in South Africa, including goalkeeper

Kennedy Mweene from Free State Stars on whom much may depend given the failure

to convert chances at the other end.


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