Zambia hope to avoid a banana-skin start in Nelspruit on Monday when they kick-off the defence of their Africa Cup of Nations title against Ethiopia.
The African champions have not had the best of preparations, winning none of their five pre-tournament friendly games after losing three and collecting two draws.
Coach Herve Renard has borrowed from another champion, albeit of universal repute, that Zambia are ready.
“You can see that when Usain Bolt is doing the series before the 100 meters final, he is not at 100 percent but he knows that he will be ready for the D-Day,” Renard said.
“You have to be confident even if you have an obstacle in front of you.
“These players have very strong character and this is what is important I can assure you they will be ready.”
Renard will have his strongest team available, including influential playmaker Rainford Kalaba, who has fully recovered from a groin injury that has kept him out of action since October 10, 2012.
Zambia also welcome back striker Jacob Mulenga, who returns to the Africa Cup after missing the 2012 triumph through a long-term injury.
Meanwhile, the two teams’ last Africa Cup meeting was 31 years ago when Ethiopia also last took part in the competition.
Zambia won that match 1-0 on their way to finishing third, while Ethiopia made a preliminary round exit.
Ethiopia, however, won their most recent competitive meeting against Zambia, whom they beat 2-1 in the 2010 CECAFA Cup quarterfinals.
And so with 1-0 wins over Niger and Tanzania, including a 1-1 draw against Tunisia in their pre-AFCON build-up games, the onus is on Ethiopia, a country renowned for its athletic prowess, to try and put shame to Renard’s track-and-field metaphor.