zambia eye afcon knockout round

THE last time Chipolopolo reached the second round of the celebrated Africa Cup of Nations was in Johannesburg in 1996.

THE last time Chipolopolo reached the second round of the celebrated Africa Cup of Nations was in Johannesburg in 1996.

Since then Zambia have been eliminated in their qualifiers or group stages, but their soccer icon Kalusha Bwalya is adamant they will do well in Angola next month.

In fact, the only time Zambia did not make it to the Afcon finals was in Tunisia in 2004.

Led by German-based golden striker Christopher Katongo, Zambia are currently in South Africa to wrap up their preparations for the Angola tournament starting on January 10.

Bwalya, who is also the president of the Football Association of Zambia, said their biggest challenge was to reach the second round.

"The last time we qualified for the second round was in South Africa in 1996. Before that, we lost to Nigeria in the final in 1994," said Bwalya, who featured in both competitions.

"I was with the boys yesterday (Monday), the spirits are high and everybody is looking forward to the tournament in Angola. We are eager to succeed in this tournament, but the first thing we need to do is to ensure that we ease the pressure to qualify for the group stages.

"It's gonna be a tough tournament but we have a quality side. We just have to do well against Cameroon, Gabon and Tunisia in our group to qualify."

Katongo said they were looking forward to doing well in Angola, adding that the current team had players with massive international experience.

Besides Katongo, Zambia have assembled all their experienced campaigners like his younger brother Felix, Isaac Chansa, Collins Mbesuma and James Chamanga.

Their final preparations for the Afcon got off to a flying start when they defeated Mozambique at Jomo Cosmos's training ground on Monday.

Mbesuma scored the goal against the Black Mambas, who arrived in Bloemfontein yesterday to wrap up their preparations for the Angola event.

Zambia were scheduled to play Malawi on Sunday but the Flames will instead line up against the Emmanuel Adebayor-led Togo on the same day in Blantyre.

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