Bring on Nige­ria, says Zam­bia boss

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

BENGUELA: Zam­bia are con­fi­dent they can beat highly-fan­cied Nige­ria on Mon­day to book a semi-fi­nal place in the Africa Cup of Na­tions for the first time in 16 years.

Zam­bia were bot­tom of the stand­ings in Group D but Thurs­day’s 2-1 victory over Gabon lifted them on to four points with Cameroon and Gabon but they stole the Group D show hav­ing scored more goals.

“Against Nige­ria, our tar­get is to reach the semi-fi­nal,” said Zam­bia coach Herve Re­nard, who grabbed Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Zam­bia (FAZ) pres­i­dent, Kalusha Bwalya, in a bear hug mo­ments af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle.

The French­man added: “We played against them in Dur­ban in a friendly, two weeks ago, and the match ended in a 0-0 draw. They are a strong team with sev­eral fa­mous play­ers, but we have a good chance against them.

“For one thing, the pres­sure is on them, not on us. We have noth­ing to lose. Our tar­get was to reach at least the quar­ter­fi­nals and we have done so now, and from this stage on, it is a bonus for us.

“Zam­bia have al­ways been a very skil­ful team, they know how to play foot­ball, but the dis­ci­pline and the con­cen­tra­tion on the pitch has not al­ways been very good,” he con­tin­ued.

Both coun­tries last clashed in the fi­nal of the 1994 Na­tions Cup, with Nige­ria winning 2-1 to clinch their sec­ond con­ti­nen­tal tro­phy.

“This has been a long time com­ing for Zam­bia,” said a de­lighted FAZ boss Bwalya, who fea­tured in the 1994 fi­nal in Tu­nis.

“Our qual­i­fi­ca­tion is the re­ward for all the hard work in the last few years. We can only get bet­ter af­ter this.

“We will take a lit­tle time to cel­e­brate this be­fore we get back to work ahead of our match against Nige­ria.”

Bwlaya added: “We are all happy, the whole team, the whole coun­try. We showed that there are no un­der­dogs in foot­ball.

“We played well against Cameroon and Tu­nisia be­fore we fin­ished the job against Gabon.”

Skip­per Chris Ka­tongo, along with younger brother Felix and strik­ers Ja­cob Mu­lenga and China-based James Chamanga tor­mented Gabon’s de­fence to achieve a mile­stone that many said was be­yond this team.

“I be­lieve we have an­swered some of our crit­ics, who said that we were not scor­ing goals, but the most im­por­tant thing is that we qual­i­fied for the next round,” said Chris Ka­tongo, who led the Cop­per Bul­lets to fire five goals ahead of the four net­ted by clos­est ri­vals Cameroon. – Sapa-AFP

FLY­ING: Zam­bia’s Felix Ka­tongo is on top of his game.

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