The much anticipated duel between defending champions Zambia and Nigeria in the group stages of the 2013 Afcon tournament holding in South Africa will be played today.
It was already anointed as an all-important game since the draws as Herve Renard’s boys were tagged as the main contenders of the Super Eagles before the kick-off of the tournament by analysts.
Zambia has paid its dues, as over the years since the demise of the super Zambia squad in a plane crash except for former player and later coach of the Zambian team and president of the Zambian Football Association; Kalusha Bwalya and with his help Zambia built up a similar team over the years and their hard work paid in the last edition of the Afcon where they lifted the trophy which in 1994, their greatest fear; the Super Eagles denied them of.
Whoever wins the clash in Nelspruit will be a step closer to the knockout stages.
Meanwhile, in the Super Eagles terrain, news that captain Joseph Yobo will not be in the starting line-up for today’s duel against Zambia has been confirmed.
Yobo was not left out due to accusing fingers but the defender had a knock in the first game which he has been unable to shake off.
The Defender will now be replaced by youngster Kenneth Omeruo.
Also Nigerians will be glad to know that Chelsea star Victor Moses who will be lacing his boots for the Super Eagles for the first time since the opener against Burkina Faso due to injury, will get a piece of the action in the African Nations Cup from the blow of the kick-off whistle.
Moses has been confirmed to be fully fit which prompted his express inclusion line-up ahead of Brown Ideye as his touch was missed against Burkina Faso.
Suspended Efe Ambrose will be replaced by Ogenyi Onazi.
At the home front of the Chipolopolo, Renard though said he has moved on from the 1-1 draw played against Ethiopia, the thought of his game plan which backfired would not let the coach be at rest, as he also plans the Super Eagles doom later today.
“I took the risk against Ethiopia and it didn’t work,” says Renard. “But that’s sport. Back in 2010 we lost our second match but we still qualified.
“What I want in a few days is to be in a position where we can still qualify.
There’s always too much praise when you win and too much criticism when you lose. You have to keep your humility when you are on top.”
“We were very disappointed with the draw against Ethiopia so we’re going to try to do better against Nigeria,” Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene said.
Renard says he is undaunted by the challenge of the game against Nigeria.
“We are never scared of our opponents. If you start to be scared you go onto the pitch in the wrong way. The strength of the team is the team spirit. It is to be confident and to think we are able to compete with everybody.
“We showed in the past that we were able to compete with the best teams in Africa. The Nigerians are one of the best teams in Africa.”
Renard painstakingly took responsibility for his team’s draw against Ethiopia. Leading 1-0 he said he made a substitution hoping that it would bring a second goal. The move backfired and now the champions face a difficult game.
“The players did their best against Ethiopia but there’s no extra pressure,” he says. “I think it’s better to be African champions once in your life than to spend it running after the crown and never winning it.
“The level in Africa is tough. It’s not like once ago when you were in one group and you were sure of finishing first or second. It has changed and we have two chances to finish first or second.
The key to the door is in our hands.”