FEATURE by Zambian journalist: Ghana here we come!
I am enjoying the current analysis going on in the country about next Friday’s Ghana versus Zambia Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup final qualifier match in this round.
For some reason my heart, to borrow the cliché – is cool, calm and collected- like was the case at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final match against Ivory Coast in Gabon.
Both Zambia and Ghana are very good teams; if you had to ask for my opinion, this game will be a 50-50 affair, but ultimately there has to be a winner.
The bookmakers are definitely putting their money on Ghana – they have their own reasons for believing Zambia’s performance since lifting the Africa Cup in 2012, has been inconsistent, others feel it is almost impossible to beat Ghana at the 60,000 ‘soccer mad’ Baba Yara Stadium, home of Asante Kotoko Football Club.
They feel the Black Stars have not only impressed on the big stage in the last decade, but they have proved mostly diligent in qualifying for the last two FIFA World Cups.
They say Ghana has an impressive FIFA World Cup finals record that saw the Black Stars in 2006 beat the Czech Republic and the USA before being eliminated by Brazil in the second round, but they were the only African team to escape their group.
In 2010, they were again the only side from the continent in the knockout rounds, and they equalled Africa’s best-ever performance by beating the USA to reach the quarter-finals before losing in a penalty kick shoot-out to Uruguay in the last eight; and would therefore want to go all the way to Brazil next year to avenge their defeat to the South Americans.
But that is just what the bookmakers are saying; Ghana would have to pass the Zambia hurdle first and I believe the Chipolopolo do rise to the occasion when it matters most; not only that, I believe our players have the zeal and desire to take the country to the first ever World Cup in Brazil.
The Chipolopolo just needs soccer fans to travel enmass to go and support the team in the gigantic Baba Yara Stadium; and of course, coach Herve Renard and his technical bench will have to read the game and make those necessary and timely changes when need be.
Renard himself has scores to settle with Ghana where he served as assistant coach under countryman, Claude Leroy from 2007 to 2008 before he was appointed Zambia coach: “I receive a lot of calls from our friends from Ghana, It is a big pleasure, but my biggest pleasure will be to beat them,” Renard told Supersport.
No one team prepares to lose – therefore neither Zambia nor Ghana would take defeat lying down.
As for the Chipolopolo, this is the time to feel proudly Zambian and must play their lungs out; if anything; even die a little for mother Zambia, as my cousin Dennis Liwewe would put it.
On head-to-head count, Zambia and Ghana have never met in FIFA World Cup matches and the statistics favour Zambia who have defeated the Black Stars four times compared to Ghana’s three in the duo’s seven competitive meetings.
Both Renard and his opposite number, Kwesi Appiah have picked their best possible teams to ensure them victory to the next and final round of qualifiers, the knockout stage of 10 teams to be grouped into two groups of five to play on home and away basis.
Ghana, like Zambia, have brought in a mixture of fresh and old blood to show the endurance in their various departments; with Chintu Kampamba of Rose United in South Africa coming in to reinforce the defence in the Chipolopolo camp; Appiah on the other hand has brought in the experience of injury-prone midfielder, Michael Essien from Chelsea, currently on loan to Real Madrid.
My only worry is the camping of the team in South Africa because of the difference in altitude between West and South Africa; FAZ has explained that it is due to travel complications to West Africa from the professionals’ different bases, however, all things being equal, we hope the team will have acclimatised by the time they stroll onto the Baba Yara Stadium pitch at Kumasi.
For now we can only hope and pray for divine intervention, I don’t know about you, but I believe Zambia is advancing to the next stage. God bless Zambia!
By Brenda Katongola, Email; firstname.lastname@example.org