THE Chipolopolo of Zambia have sounded a warning that they are not taking any chances when they meet the Warriors of Zimbabwe in their opening game of the 2016 Africa Nations Championships (Chan) at the Umuganda Stadium in Rubavu on Tuesday.
The Zambians have recalled their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations winning captain Christopher Katongo, who will lead a youthful side in their quest for another continental title. Katongo, who has also played in China, has now joined Zambian club Green Buffaloes after a spell at South African Premiership side Bidvest Wits and revealed a win against the Warriors would be crucial if they are going to make it to the knock-out stages.
“The game against Zimbabwe will be the most important. If we win that one, we will be on our way to the knock-out stages,” said Katongo, whose team was in camp in South Africa before departure for Rwanda on Thursday.
Katongo in 2012 made history by winning the BBC African Footballer of the Year award at the expense of such illustrious stars as the Ivory Coast pair of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, Demba Ba of Senegal and Morocco’s Younes Belhanda.
Katongo, who will once again captain the Chipolopolo, said he was happy to be back with the national team.
“I am happy to be back. I hope we will achieve something new. We have a balanced team that can go far in this tournament,” he said.
The Zambians have built their team around five of their top teams – Power Dynamos, Zanaco, Green Eagles, Zesco, and Green Buffaloes.
Zesco has four players in the team, the same as Power Dynamos and Zanaco, while Green Eagle contribute three players. Apart from Katongo, Green Buffaloes have four other players in the squad, defenders Buchiza Mfune, Andrian Chigama and Stephen Kabamba, as well as midfielder Jack Chirwa. This makes them the biggest player contributors to the Chipolopolo squad.
Coach George Lwandamina said he was satisfied with their level of preparations, adding that the Chipolopolo are ready and prepared to face the best Africa has to offer, starting off with the Warriors in their opening game.
“We played a game against Angola. There were things which we wanted to see from the team and at least we have a starting
point. We are ready,” Lwandamina told the media in South Africa before his team engaged a second string Mamelodi Sundowns team for their final preparatory match.