Zambia have called for the Cosafa football bloc, including Malawians, to pray for the Chipolopolo as they tackle SudanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Nile Crocodiles in SundayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2012 Orange Africa Cup of Nations quarter-final.
In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Chipolopolo spokesperson Eric Mwanza said the team was mindful that it was carrying Cosafa pride at the Equatorial Guinea/Gabon finals following Angola and BotswanaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exit.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“To our Malawian brothers and sisters, tionga dzikomo, tiyamikira kwambiri [we are grateful] for their wonderful support. We are so proud to hear and read that the whole of southern Africa, including Malawi is supporting Chipolopolo,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Mwanza in an e-mailed response from the Equatorial Guinea.
The Nation had asked the man, who is also Zambia Football Association (FAZ) media officer, about the mood in Chipolopolo camp ahead of the match in Bata, how he rates their prospects of booking a semi-final berth.
The Nation also asked what other Cosafa teams can learn from ZambiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s exploits. Malawi shares a lot in common, including culture with their western neighbours.
Save for the expulsion of wayward winger Clifford Mulenga for breaking camp curfew, coach Renard Herve and his charges are determined to keep the fire burning, Mwanza added.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We should beat Sudan, but there is no underrating them. The team [Zambia] has set a target of a minimum of a semi-final and we are in a good position to attain that. The squad is free of injuries and have no suspensions; so, Herve Renard, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe FoxÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, as he is fondly called has a full squad to select from,Ã¢â‚¬Â he added.
Zambia took the continental showpiece by storm beating pre-tournament favourites Senegal 2-1, drawing 2-2 with Libya, then defeating hosts Equatorial Guinea 1-0 to clinch a last eight place without a loss.
The Flames may wish to learn one thingÃ¢â‚¬â€the importance of blending the youth and experienced campaigners and consistency. The core of squad has also been together since 2006, Mwanza observed.
Flames coach Kinnah Phiri on Thursday described the Zambians as an inspiration to the Flames, noting that there is no gulf in class between the two neighbours.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They have a good squad of young players and we can also learn from this, especially their strategy on speed and stamina which has worked for them. The Zambians run a lot and most West Africa teams with Europe-based players cannot cope with that as they tend to play slow game,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Kinnah.
But veteran football administrator Yasin Osman yesterday said although the Zambians have an edge, it would be an uphill task taking on a Sudanese side that has nothing to lose, not blessed with skill save for unwavering teamwork.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The problem with Zambia is that they do not have a star player to turn a game on its head when the chips are down. But Malawi can learn from their team work. Most of their players give 150 percent of commitment.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have hard-working players, but there are some who play as if they were being forced. I hope these players are watching,Ã¢â‚¬Â said the pioneer national team striker.
Sudan have shown resilience to reach this far, after beating Burkina Faso 2-0 in their last qualifying match. It is the first time in 42 years that Sudan has gone beyond the group stages of this biennial continental soccer spectacle.