Zambia v Tunisia: Kalaba bullish ahead of Group B clash

Rainford Kalaba
Rainford Kalaba

Zambia captain Rainford Kalaba has been quick to take a swipe at Tunisia ahead of their African Cup of Nations clash.

Rainford Kalaba does not believe Zambia have anything to fear in Thursday’s meeting with a Tunisia team regarded as contenders to win a second Africa Cup of Nations title.

The 2012 winners were held to a 1-1 draw by the Democratic Republic of Congo in their opening Group B game on Sunday.

Honour Janza’s men will have viewed that result as two points dropped and will need a much better showing in the match between the two group favourites.

However, TP Mazembe midfielder Kabala is unconcerned by the threat posed by Tunisia, who also limped to a 1-1 stalemate in their first group encounter with Cape Verde.

“Our mentality will determine how we will face them,” said the Zambia captain. “If we go with a positive mentality and good character, I think we will get a good result.

“We have played Tunisian opposition before with my club. I have seen that they are not more courageous like they used to be.

“We just need to apply ourselves 100 per cent and am sure we will get the positive result on Thursday.”

Zambia will be without midfielder Nathan Sinkala for the remainder of the tournament due to a knee injury, although Ronald Kampamba and Kennedy Mweene are both fit to play in Ebebiyin after picking up knocks against DR Congo.

AFCON rules do not permit replacements to be brought in during the tournament, leaving Janza with a decision to make as to how to reshuffle his engine room.

Kondwani Mtonga could move forward from centre-back to take on Sinkala’s defensive midfield role, while versatile Donashano Malama is also capable of filling that spot.

Injuries hampered Tunisia in their draw with Cape Verde, which coach Georges Leekens blamed on fitness problems for Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and Saber Khalifa that forced him to utilise Ahmed Akaichi and Edem Rjaibi.

“We used two newcomers against Cape Verde and this upset our rhythm,” Leekens said. “Opening group games are always difficult because you do not know how your opponents play.”

Leekens has been eager to play down talk of them being favourites to top the group, but is hopeful of an improved performance from his team.

“At this stage every team in the group is the favourite to finish on top,” he added.

“Tunisia are not the favourites to win the group. We have never said we are going to top the final standings.

“We will be more focused for our next two games.”