A 3-0 victory over Sudan in the opening match on Tuesday pushed coach Patrick Phiri’s charges to the summit of the table, but they face a much sterner test against a Cameroon side who lost 4-2 to Egypt in their opening encounter and are desperate for the points.
With Barcelona’s attacking ace, Samuel Eto’o promising his countrymen qualification despite the early set back, coach Otto Pfiser will have to make the right selection from the start.
In the first match the former Ghanaian coach left adventurous Alexander Song on the bench and only introduced him when their crests had fallen.
Skipper Rigobert Song must organise his co-defenders into an impenetrable barrier that will hold the Zambians at bay, while the midfield that serves Eto’o and gangling Mohamedu Idrissou will have to do so with decent balls to enable them to strike with precision.
Victory for Zambia tonight’s assignment will guarantee the Chipolopolo Boys a place in the quarterfinal and dump Cameroon out of the competition.
Phiri concedes Cameroon go into this match a wounded side and hungry for a win in their bid to avoid an early exit but he has faith in his squad.
“The fact that they lost to Egypt shows that they are a beatable side. We have to capitalise on their weaknesses.”
Impressive Free State Stars’ stopper Kennedy Mweene is expected to retain his position in the Zambian goal with hard tackling defender Billy Mwanza taking charge of central defence.
Phiri is hoping to deploy a formation that will give Zambia an edge in midfield – a department found wanting against Sudan last Tuesday – with Sweden-based Isaac Chansa returning to the fore alongside skipper Christopher Katongo.
Jacob Mulenga has the ability to dazzle and with support from Joseph Mosonda and Francis Kasonde, the sleek playing Zambians could be dangerous to any team, any day.
In the day’s other game, the Egyptians can all-but book their place in the next round with victory over traditional rivals Sudan.
The Pharoahs’ coach Hassan Shehata said soon after he arrived in Ghana that he feared his southern neighbours most in the group and his approach to the match against Cameroon showed he had little or no respect for the Cameroonians.
Now Shehata could be jittery as he prepares to face his most dreaded opponents. He will have to consider the weaknesses and strengths of the Sudanese and fashion out a strategy to shut them out.
Player for player, Shehata has quality in abundance but it is the proper mixture of these that will provide the result that he desires.
In goalkeeper Esam El Hadary, Shehata has a pair of reliable hands, while the return to the team, after suspension of Ibrahim Said to partner Mohammes Shawky at the back would provide some steel in front of the Egyptian goal.
The return of Ahmed Hassan of Middlesbrough in England could reinforce the Pharaohs attack, as he teams up with Abu Rabou and Mohammes Zidan, who scored two goals apiece in their opening match.
Sudan’s coach Mohammed Abdallah of Sudan, admits he is paired against superior opposition but believes anything is possible in football.
He said he would not be overawed by the domineering credentials of his opponents and would go into battle aiming to return victorious. His defenders would have to play to their limits to terminate the Egyptian aggression away from their danger area in order to avoid conceding goals.
A lot will depend on the Crocodiles’ goalkeeper Akram El Hadi Satem in this clash of the Nile. His performance is bound to have a marked effect on the outcome.