Zambia will take on Lesotho on Sunday
Herve Renard’s Zambia heads to Maseru on Sunday with the pressure of great expectations swirling over their heads.
Zambia’s March 24 game against Lesotho in a Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup Group D qualifier will mark their first competitive match since the 2013 Africa Cup.
The 2012 African champions have been under-fire since their AFCON title defence flop last January and for many Maseru only means one thing; redemption time.
Ghana are keen on the outcome of the game as they are overly keen on picking the group’s only ticket for the final phase of the qualifiers.
Zambia won three free points from Sudan after a protest by the Zambians earned them the points that has given them the edge over the Black Stars.
The Chipolopolo were far from convincing at the recent Africa Cup of Nations and coach Renard knows they have to win in Maseru to assuage their fans.
“A lot of comments have been said by a lot of people,” Renard said.
“I know what the people are expecting from me.”
In the midst of all the expectations, they are minimal changes or no major surprises to the team made by Renard since January.
Captain and striker Christopher Katongo retains his place despite his below par showing in South Africa.
There is however much anticipation now that midfielder Rainford Kalaba has fully recovered from a groin injury after struggling with fitness in Nelspruit and whose form symbolised Zambia’s poor AFCON.
But Renard has injury worries regarding the fitness of defender Stopilla Sunzu who arrived in camp with a knee problem and is currently doing light training.
Victory over Lesotho will keep Zambia top of Group D and move them from six to nine points from three games played.
Meanwhile, although Lesotho are bottom of Group D on one point, they are unbeaten at home on the road to Brazil after holding Sudan to a scoreless draw on June 10 in Maseru.
Lesotho coach Leslie Notsi though, is still not taking Zambia for granted despite their woes and his teams’ current Group D home record.
“Now they will be more dangerous because they will be like wounded Tigers,” Notsi said.
“I am still expecting a very tough game.”