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Zambia, a serious hurdle

Every nation that ever took part in any past FIFA World Cup since its inception in 1930 in Uruguay knows why she wants to be there again and again! Any serious observer who cares to know what it takes to be among the world’s elite 32 qualifiers to participate in the world fiesta may have to go closer to Cameroun to find out how sweet it is to be there.

On six different occasions that they have qualified, The Indomitable Lions of Cameroun are still not satisfied and are working hard to be there again – this time in Brazil, the home of modern soccer. Africa must have cause to envy them.

And if one wants to find out which country is seriously peeved by their inability to be among the best in the world, that country could easily be Zambia with their international accolade of Chipolopolo. The Zambians find it simply horrifying and unacceptable for that poor status after making all the effort humanly possible for the past 43 years – that is since Africa was given a single slot to be part of the World Cup – till today that five nations are given the chance to play at the global level.

This time around, the Chipolopolo are dreaming big with a high hope of making it over the shoulders of their closest challengers, the Black Stars, of this incredible Coast of Gold. They are obviously obsessed with some strange message of hope after flying high over the Black Stars in recent times, first at the Gabon-Equatorial Guinea Africa Cup finals in 2012, and then the first round of the current qualifiers.

It will be recalled that in the semi-final of the 2012 African championship, the Zambians squeezed through a tight fight to secure a lone goal victory, and a little later in Group D of the World Cup qualifiers in Lusaka, the former Northern Rhodesians applied the same dose to prove their superiority over the Black Stars.

Indeed, the Zambians bemoaned their fate for all those years to a point when Africa was granted a special dispensation to enter with six representatives when the Cup was first staged on the African soil in 2010.

The continent was represented by the host country, South Africa, Algeria, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and the Black Stars. Today, the Zambians find themselves extremely ripe for that honour after doing so much on the continent. They were silver medallists in 1974 in Egypt when Zaire won the Cup of Nations, and again 20 years later in Tunisia where Nigeria won the cup for the first time. Of course, their highest point was in Gabon where they beat Cote d’Ivoire 8-7 on penalties to win the Cup of Nations.

One particular point of seriousness was when a protest was ruled in favour of the Zambians after losing 0-2 to The Sudan in the first leg of the current qualifiers, on the grounds of the use of an unqualified player. The three points, plus three goals, offered them on a silver platter on the basis of that protest raised the Chipolopolo to the top of Group D, with the Black Stars on their heels with a one point difference.

It must be noted that the hard-hit Sudanese were aggrieved and waited for the second round to pay Zambia back in their own coins, and that culminated in the strong 1-1 draw they forced in Lusaka, shooting the Black Stars up with a point advantage. In spite of that, however, the Zambians are bent on changing the atmosphere in this beautiful Coast of Gold when they arrive here for the final determiner on September 6, 2013. The match is slated for the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi.

Reports say the Zambians have already sent spies down to monitor the Black Stars, and they were seen at the last match against Sudan in which the Stars won 3-0. Coach Herve Renard, who worked with the Black Stars during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations staged in this country, has in recent times pressed the accelerator in preparation for the Ghana match. Last week, the Zambians poured their anger on their regional counterparts and came up tops in their soccer championship in their zone.

In fact, that has heightened their belief that they would be in Brazil 2014 at all cost at the expense of the Black Stars. I wonder whether it has ever occurred to the FA management team to send one official or even employ the services of a Ghanaian living around the area to monitor the Zambian exploits during the competition and send down a report.

It will be very dangerous for the management, coach, and the playing body to consider the Zambians as underdogs. This is the last hurdle in Group D, and for sure the pressure is on the Black Stars who dazzled the world with their last effort in South Africa which nearly carried them to the unprecedented semi-finals. FIFA has recognised their effort and have reasons to seed them as the qualifiers rage on.

It is unpredictable what the straight fight for the final ticket would look like, but it appears countries such as South Africa, Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Congo DR, Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Cameroun and Senegal, who have been to the World Cup on a number of occasions, are capable of meeting for the final slots.

This makes the assignment extra dicey, and Coach Kwasi Appiah must be told to sit up. Good luck!
Source: Nana Ampomah