Zambia hard at work for the Afcon glory
While Bafana Bafana will enjoy the festive season holidays, Zambia's Chipolopolo are hard at training, sharpening themselves for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Bafana Bafana, whom Safa president Molefi Oliphant expect to reclaim the title, will only assemble in Durban on January 5.
Speaking to Sowetan yesterday, Zambia's caretaker coach Patrick Phiri said he was impressed with the level of enthusiasm displayed by the selected players.
"We have been in camp here in Lusaka since December 10. We've finished with fitness and are now working on the tactical aspects.
"It is a provisional team that we are working with now, we will be off to Europe on Christmas Day for a training camp in Spain.
"We have also lined up a friendly with a Spanish select side made up of some of the professional players, on December 27.
"The plan is to play five days in Spain. From Spain we will be going Tunisia where we have a game against the local senior national side on January 6.
"After the mini training camp in Tunisia, the team will travel to Morocco where we are also planning to play one friendly game.
"We are in the process of clinching a deal with the Football Association of Togo to spend a few days in that country before flying to Ghana.
"Togo are preparing for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, we thought it will be a great idea to play against them too," said Phiri.
On the absence of free-scoring Moroka Swallows striker James "King Goals" Chamanga, Phiri said: "It is true he's not in the provisional team.
"The problem is that James had lost form when we were selecting the team, we are delighted that he has regained his scoring form.
"I have no doubt he will be in the final squad that we will be sending to the Confederation of African Football before the January 12 deadline for the Ghana tournament.
"We [Zambians] are all impressed by his current form," said Phiri, who is hoping to do well in Ghana to secure a permanent contract.
Phiri is a little worried that Chris Katongo and Isaac Chansa will miss Ghana's opening match against Sudan in Kumasi on January 22.
"Chris and Isaac are both suspended for the first time. It is good that we knew well in advance and will come up with a plan."
Chipolopolo will then play four-time holders Cameroon on January 24 and complete the first round campaign against reigning champions Egypt on January 30.