CHIPOLOPOLO coach, Honour Janza has cautiously welcomed the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying draws, saying Zambia will not underrate their opponents in Group E.
Janza described the group where Zambia, the 2012 AFCON champions, were placed against Congo Brazzaville, Guinea Bissau and Kenya as interesting but that the Chipolopolo would not underrate any team.
“This is an interesting group that we have been placed, in the sense that we have not played each other in a long time,” he said.
Janza said with proper preparations and focus on the assignments, the Chipolopolo could sail through to the 2017 AFCON finals to be staged in Zambia’s familiar territory, Gabon.
“For us we won’t underrate any team which we will face in the qualifiers and what is required is good preparation to attain good results,” he said.
He said there were no more underdogs in Africa football but that only preparations would determine the team’s destiny.
“AFCON qualifiers have never been easy what we need is adequate preparations and concentration which will determine our performance,” he said.
Janza also noted that the local-bred Chipolopolo side also needed to take Namibia seriously in the 2016 African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers that kick off in June.
“The boys will also need to take Namibia seriously in the CHAN a qualifier, no team is Africa is a push over,”he said.
Chipolopolo vice-captain Nathan Sinkala said the team would not take any of their 2017 AFCON qualifiers opponents lightly.
Sinkala said in an interview following Wednesday’s draws for the Gabon tournament made in Cairo, Egypt that the Chipolopolo intended to work harder than the 2015 AFCON qualifiers.
“It is not an easy group. It can look easy on paper but in football nowadays there is no such thing as a small team,” Sinkala said.
“We just have to work extra hard to finish first in the group.”
Sinkala also said he was back in training after suffering a knee injury on January 18 at the 2015 tournament.
“I am okay now and training at TP Mazembe while I wait for the June window to open,” Sinkala said whose six-month loan to Swiss club Grasshopper from the DR Congo ended last December.
Striker Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba said Group E was a fair but tricky and that the Chipolopolo would need to work hard to qualify.
“All the teams we have been placed with are good teams and we have to work hard to earn a place at the AFCON,”he said.
Midfielder Mukuka Mulenga said the Chipolopolo had higher chances of qualifying to the 2017 AFCON compared to the other teams in the group.
“We are in a nice group with high chances of qualifying to the AFCON what will be required is hard work and unity,” he said.
Teenage striker, Patrick Ngoma said the team should not underrate their opponents despite some of them not featuring at the AFCON in a long time.
Meanwhile Chipolopolo Soccer Fans Association (CSFA) chairperson, Yotam Mwanza said the draws were fair and predicted that Zambia would have an easy way through into the AFCON finals.
“The group we are in may look easy but we have to prepare adequately because such teams are full of surprise,” he said.
“We need to start the qualifiers with positive results; we don’t want mathematics kind of qualification,”he said.
He added that the Chipolopolo would need quality friendly games for them to have adequate preparations.
Only the winners from the 13 groups will qualify to the Gabon tournament.
However, the best two runners-up from the group of four teams will join the 13 other finalists will book their tickets to Libreville.
Chipolopolo struggled to qualify for the 2015 tournament in Equatorial Guinea when they finished second behind Cape Verde.
Zambia, who won the 2012 AFCON title in Gabon, will kick-off their Group E campaign at home with a debut meeting against Guinea Bissau on June 13.
The Chipolopolo will visit Kenya in their last group match in 2015 on September 6.
Zambia will resume the race to Libreville on March 24, 2016 when they host Congo before travelling to Brazzaville for the final leg on March 28.
The Chipolopolo will travel to Bissau to play their penultimate Group E match on June 4 before hosting Kenya on September 3.-Times of Zambia