LUSAKA, May 15 - With the count-down steadily ticking away towards the combined World Cup and African Cup qualifiers next month, this afternoon's international friendly against Zimbabwe in Harare is an important fixture for Zambia.
After sharing the spoils in a 1-1 stalemate in the first encounter a fortnight ago in Lusaka, the Zambian technical bench certainly needs to grab this particular match by the scruff of its neck and get going.
And with FAZ declaring its intention to round up Zambia's legion of foreign-based players for the qualifiers, the writing is on the wall and it is make or bust for the players who will line up in Harare today.
After a somewhat tame first leg in Lusaka during which Zambia sleepwalked through lengthy phases of the match allowing the visitors to dominate, coach Ben Bamfuchile's charges have it all to do to stake a claim in the squad for the qualifiers.
Former Zambia under-20 and now Zimbabwe-based striker, Clive Mwale now has a chance to showcase his abilities at senior level and looks set to partner Red Arrows pacey skipper Songwe Chalwe in attack.
Rising under-20 star, Felix Katongo and the tricky Justin Mwilima are extra strike options for Zambia while Numba Mumamba who captained the side in the first encounter in Lusaka seems a sure starter in the middle of the park.
Alongside Mumamba whose form has been far from convincing, Power Dynamos' junior international Isaac Chansa the scorer of Zambia's goal in the 1-1 draw in Lusaka should line up in the middle of the park with Zimbabwe-based Ian Bakala who also featured in that game to make the play for the frontmen.
At the back, Billy Mwanza seems a sure starter in a central defence partnership with the recalled hard tackling Evans Chisulo while the battle tested Joseph Musonda and either Kabamba Chalwe or Derrick Shepande policing the flanks to shield goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje from the Zimbabwean threat.
At the other end of the field, the Zimbabweans who will consider themselves unlucky not to have won in Lusaka, are likely to maintain faith in same cast of players who caused quite some headaches for Bamfuchile's charges.
This could see the pacey Albert Mbano and Malvern Nyakabangwe spearheading the Warriors' charge with the lively Leo Kurauzione operating just behind the front two as he did with quite some telling effect in Lusaka.
In the middle of the park, Zimbabwe coach Sunday Marimo who is also rebuilding for the World Cup and Africa Cup qualifiers should retain his faith in the trio of Francis Chandida, Honour Gombani and Esrom Nyandoro.
To keep the Zambians at bay, Marimo could give the run-out to the central defense trio of Zvenyika Makonese, Cephas Chimeza and Bekithemba Ndhlovu, scorer of Zimbabwe's equaliser in Lusaka to shield the goalkeeper who is likely to be Tapuwa Kapini.
While Marimo in his quest to run the rule over as many players as possible made no less than five substitutions in the Lusaka match, his Zambian counterpart only made two and it remains to be seen whether this time around it will be any different.
The home side start this encounter as favourites and will be keen to make up for their under-20 side's defeat in the finals of the regional SADC Games championships which they lost 2-1 to Zambia.
By Sports Reporter
Source: The Times of Zambia / allAfrica Global Media
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