ZAMBIA coach Herve Renard is wary of Burkina Faso’s lethal striker Alain Traore in tonight’s Africa Cup of Nations Group C match that will decide the Chipolopolo’s run in the championship.
But Renard is also counting on his midfielders to neutralise whatever menace the Burkinabe could cause for the Zambia backline.
He said at a press briefing here yesterday that it would not matter how many goals Zambia concede as long as his side score more.
Zambia need to win to qualify for the quarter-finals while Burkina Faso will get a berth with a draw, but a win will ensure they top the group and possibly avoid tournament favourites Ivory Coast at the next stage.
Renard said he closely follows French football where Traore plays for Lorient and knows the player is good.
“When he has space it is difficult to stop him. He has a profile like that of Gervinho (of the Ivory Coast). But we have to stop him,” he said.
Renard said Zambia put themselves in this tight spot of needing an outright win tonight because they failed to beat 10-man Ethiopia in the opening Group match.
He said, however, “we have destiny in our hands.”
Renard said his team selection for each game depends on the character of the opponents but he is happy with his squad’s unity and hopes his strikers will be better in taking their chances.
“We need to be efficient and kill the game,” he said.
Renard said Burkina Faso have an easier challenge because they only need a draw to qualify but he also notes that Zambia are going into the match undefeated in eight AfCON matches.
Chipolopolo captain Christopher Katongo said at the same briefing that the players know what challenge lies before them and they are ready for it.
He said the players are unperturbed by the fame of some opposing players because Zambia play as a team and not as individuals.
“A team may have names, but if you don’t have a team you can’t win,” he said.
On fans’ complaints that the team has so far performed below par, Renard disagrees, particularly for the match against Nigeria, and Katongo says the players are doing their best and know the responsibility they shoulder.
And Burkina Faso coach Paul Put says he and his players are highly motivated and confident of getting a “good result” against Zambia tonight.
He said although it will not be an easy game, the Stallions are capable of writing history for themselves.
That history would be to knock Zambia out of the competition and qualifying for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1998 when they hosted the AfCON finals.
“It is not an easy position to be in to face Zambia. We know and respect Zambia, but our team work is what we will bring to the field tomorrow (tonight),” Put said at a Press briefing here yesterday.
He said although Zambia have not won any game yet, his side is aware of the Chipolopolo’s pedigree.
“Zambia is a very good team. They showed it against Nigeria. They haven’t won but in football anything is possible,” Put said.
Burkina Faso need just a draw to get a quarter-final place but Put says the Stallions “will try to play forward”.
He said the outcome could be decided on which side utilises its scoring opportunities.
Put said after drawing 1-1 with Nigeria and beating Ethiopia 4-0 the team has proved its worth especially that it has exceeded recent AfCON performances.
“Now our minds are free. Confidence is high,” Put said.
The Belgian said he is happy with the players’ mentality ahead of the match.
“I am very happy with the way my boys have performed so far. The important thing is not only winning, but (also) the way we play,” Put said.
Top striker Alain Traore said he and the team are happy that they are topping the group but that the team knows that the job to qualify for the quarter-finals has not been done yet.
The 21-year-old Traore who leads the top-scorers chart with three goals, said “we have not qualified yet so we have to play well tomorrow (tonight). I will try my best.”
Meanwhile, team captain Moumouni Dagano said the team is confident of qualifying but the players also know it will be a tough task.