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African Nations Cup Preview: Zambia – Nigeria

Kickoff: 17:30 CET January 25, Lubango

Chipolopolo In Inspired Form

Zambia are in inspired form at the AFCON at the moment. They have many things working for them, not least the most flamboyant coach in Frenchman Herve Renard, who brings some Hollywood cool to their bench.

The Copper Bullets, otherwise known as Chipolopolo, scored first in every game in the first round but were unfortunate in their first two games to allow the opposition back into the game. With some mending by Renard, the Zambians were able to step up their game against Gabon, winning 2-1 and ensuring they came from bottom to top Group D with four points.

Against Nigeria, Zambia will face a team that they held to a goalless draw in pre-tournament preparations. Nigeria are no strangers in crunch games either as it was the Super Eagles, albeit a generation of player ago, that stopped Zambia’s inspiring romp to the final of Tunisia ’94 after the Chipolopolo lost their entire first team in a plane crash in Gabon.

The Zambian defence, which has conceded five goals thus far, will have to play extra hard to find a solution to the enterprising runs of Osaze Odemwingie and Chinedu Obasi. The speed of Obafemi Martins will also be enough of a hassle for a defence that has not kept a clean sheet in the tournament.

Both teams will count on their present form to see them through to the last four, where either Angola or Ghana will be waiting. Renard has already hit the benchmark of a quarter-final place set for him by the Football Association of Zambia and everything that comes afterwards will be a bonus for the team.

Therefore, expect Zambia to play without fear or restrictions. They will come out to entertain and will hope that they can outrun the sometimes slow Eagles in order to get a semi-final ticket.

Nigeria Rising Again?


Nigeria’s cool 3-0 victory over Mozambique tells of their increase in confidence since their opening game loss to defending champions Egypt. Slowly, the Super Eagles have clawed themselves back into the tournament and will look to have a big finish.

Whenever Nigeria are playing well, it usually takes more than a rock to stop them and the quarter-final against Zambia will be interesting to watch because of the history the teams share.  In Zambia, they will meet a team that likes attacking and running with the ball. Zambia have scored first in each of their matches and so the Eagles will need to be careful of the attack led by Christopher Katongo and Jacob Mulenga.

Shuaibu Amodu will look at this game as the one that will determine his immediate future as coach of the Nigerian national team. His mandate of at least a semi-final finish at the beginning of the tournament is in contrast to his opposite number’s last eight mandate, and his target has already been reached. Amodu has another opportunity to consign his critics to oblivion if he can win this one.

Team news

Zambia


The Copper Bullets will be without the services of midfielder Rainford Kalaba and centre-half Kampamba Chintu due to the accumulation of yellow cards. Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene who conceded a terrible goal against Cameroon, will be expected to continue in goal.

Nigeria

There are no injury worries for Amodu apart from that of defender Joseph Yobo, who had already been ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury before their last game. Obafemi Martins highlighted why he needs to be in the first team with his goal against Mozambique, but Amodu will likely stick with his starting line-up, with Yakubu Ayegbeni as top striker.

Players To Watch

Zambia

Captain Christopher Katongo has been the spur in their attack and he will look to breakdown the Nigerian attack alongside Jacob Mulenga.

Nigeria

Osaze Odemwingie
will relish an opportunity to run at the Zambian defence from all angles as well as team-mate Chinedu Obasi.

Prediction


Zambia 1-2 Nigeria