Phiri and his team are aiming for victory in tonight’s concluding Group C assignment, but that alone will not be enough to secure Zambia a place among the last eight teams at the competition.
The Chipolopolo Boys would have to beat Egypt and count on either defeat or draw for Cameroon as the Indomitable Lions take on Sudan in matches that will be played simultaneously at 19h00.
A 3-0 victory against Sudan and a disappointing 1-5 hiding at the hands of Cameroon gave the Chipolopolo Boys three points ahead of tonight’s fixture.
Unlike Cameroon, who also have three points, Zambia has an inferior goal record.
Zambia’s opening match against Sudan provided hope that the team would have fruitful outing in Ghana, but a 5-1 bashing at the hands of Cameroon put those hopes on hold.
The Chipolopolo Boys are now using mathematical chances to progress to the next round of the competition for the first time since 1996.
But even that hope is as faint as thin-line pencil with Cameroon looking most likely to proceed to the next stage with the Pharaohs.
Phiri yesterday said much as the team had slim chances, anything was possible against the Pharaohs of Egypt.Phiri believes a miracle can happen in today’s match with Zambia joining the defending champions in the knockout stage.
“We must get a win,” he said. “We also need the goals.”Phiri said the Chipolopolo Boys were not completely out of the tournament.
He said much as the result between Cameroon and Sudan would be of great bearing to Zambia’s chances of a quarterfinal berth, his side was focused on the assignment with Egypt.
“There is no need to talk about other teams at this stage. The good thing is that we are still in contention,” Phiri said.
He expressed happiness that his charges had recovered from the embarrassing 5-1 bashing by Cameroon.
In searching for a positive result that will resurrect hopes of getting to the next stage, skipper Christopher Katongo is expected to up his performance in today’s assignment.However, under-performing Ian Bakala is expected to lose his place to either Chintu Kampamba or Under 20 midfielder William Njobvu.
Phiri is expected to give Sweden-based Isaac Chansa, whose hairstyle was more visible than his form against Cameroon, another chance to coordinate the midfield.While Phiri has hinted change is inevitable in defence, Billy Mwanza is expected to retain his position alongside Hichani Himoonde as the key central defenders.
The coach seems to have no choice but confine right-wingback Clive Hachilensa to the bench, replacing him with either Francis Kasonde or William Chinyama while Joseph Musonda is favoured for the leftback position.
Impressive Felix Katongo is assured of playing the pivotal role assigned to him at the competition while strikers James Chamanga and Jacob Mulenga are expected to lead the attack.
The depth of the Zambian team is average and if Phiri’s quest for more firepower upfront is to increase, the task will fall on youngster Emmanuel Mayuka and Felix Sunzu, Junior, with Rainford Kalaba an option in midfield.
Whatever Phiri and his deputy Fighton Simukonda strategise, it should be a formula to beat Egypt coach Hassan Shehata’s men.
Belgium-based Egyptian skipper Ahmed Hassan will lead the engineering of the Pharaohs midfield alongside inform Mohamed Aboutriaka.
The attacking football Shehata’s men have displayed, granting them seven goals with a maximum six points so far, may apply in today’s game.
But Shehata will be conservative considering his team is comfortably leading Group C and looks set to top the group into the next stage.
Goalkeeper Essam Al-Hadari is a strong force behind the Egyptian defence marshaled by Hani Saied, Ahmed Fathi and Sayed Moawad. The Zambians should also be wary of Mohamed Zidan who plays for Bundesliga side Hamburg.