Ecounters between Zambia’s Chipolopolo and the Zimbabwe Warriors are always grudge matches for one reason or another and their clash in the African Nations Championships (Chan) group match this afternoon is likely to produce another fierce contest.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The old foes face off at Umganda Stadium in Rwanda in their Group D opener, as both teams seek momentum in the tough group that also contains Mali and Uganda.
The clashes between the two are always contested in true derby spirit, with both teams throwing everything for a result.
The Warriors’ main target is to improve on their previous performance after they reached the semi-finals in the previous edition held in South Africa.
Captain Hardlife Zvirekwi — the only survivor from the squad that did duty in South Africa — is dreaming of lifting the trophy come February 7.
Unlike Zambia, however, the Warriors did not enjoy the best of preparations since they could not get a warm-up match.
Chipolopolo were camped in South Africa, where they played Mamelodi Sundowns and Angola.
The Warriors declared that they would be out to win the big prize in Rwanda and today, they have an opportunity to make clear their intentions.
Pasuwa took with him a young team full of hunger, but lean on experience, while on the other hand, Zambia have banked on captain Christopher Katongo and Isaac Chansa’s experience.
The two were part of the squad that won the 2012 Afcon title.
Pasuwa will be banking on the experience of full-backs Ocean Mushure and Zvirekwi, as well as midfielder Joel Ngodzo.
In the qualifiers, striker Roderick Mutuma proved to be a reliable source of goals and the spotlight falls on him this afternoon.
There is always a score to settle when the Warriors and Chipolopolo clash and this time, the Zambians will be out for revenge, having lost the last time the two teams met.
Zambia coach George Lwandamina said he would be looking to get some impetus from the first match.
“The luck element is just 5%. You need the hard work and physical component, which is 90%. Winning the first game gives good impetus,” he said.
Katongo said that the team was in high spirits and looking forward to the derby.
“The team with more energy and desire will win. We are ready for the ‘derby’ against Zimbabwe. We need each other to win,” he said.
Chipolopolo have fought several battles with the Warriors since 1980 and as they line up today, the burning issue of supremacy between them remains unresolved.
In some ways, the diminished fortunes of the Warriors, who have neither won the biggest continental tournament, the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) nor the Chan tournament, will only add to the emotion invested in the game.
Zambia lifted the prestigious Afcon trophy for the first time in 2012 after beating a star-studded Ivory Coast led by the iconic Didier Drogba on penalties, while the Warriors failed to qualify for the tournament, having only qualified for two Nations Cup finals in 2004 in Tunisia and 2006 in Egypt, but didn’t make an impact.
The Warriors beat Zambia to qualify for the 2014 edition, courtesy of a Charles Sibanda strike in the second leg of their Chan tie in 2013 to earn a place at the tournament held in South Africa, following a goalless draw in the first leg in Harare.
But statistics still weigh heavily against the Warriors.
According to their head-to-head summary, Zambia have played 17 matches in all competitions at home against the Warriors and won nine of those matches, drew five and lost only three.
The Warriors hosted Zambia on 27 occasions, winning seven matches and losing eight times, with 12 ending as draws.
In their seven meetings on neutral ground, they won one match each, with the rest ending in draws.
In total, they played 51 matches against each other, with Zambia winning 18 of those, while Zimbabwe bagged 11 and there are 22 draws.