Wednesday Jul 07, 2021. 18:00
Chipolopolo Zambia kick off their COSAFA Cup title defence this Thursday with a Group A match against a wounded and bottom placed Lesotho at Wolfson Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s side face Lesotho who kicked their Group A campaign on July 6 with a 3-1 loss to Eswatini in a match that saw the losers play with ten men for the remaining 84 minutes after Jane Thaba-Ntso was red carded.
Chipolopolo enters the COSAFA Cup needing to quickly adjust after their Group B matches were annulled following the withdrawal of Madagascar and Comoros that forced the tournament organisers to revise the fixtures on July 5 and moved Zambia to Group A.
Botswana and 2021 COSAFA Cup hosts Bafana Bafana South Africa are Zambia’s other new opponents in Group A.
“We want to approach every game as it comes and we are looking forward to the match against Lesotho in the revised fixtures,” Micho said.
“Lesotho were unlucky after having one player red carded in the first seven minutes of the game but then you later had a situation where statistically, they matched Eswatini.”
Zambia and Lesotho meet for the first time since the 2016 COSAFA Cup Plate semifinal in Windhoek that Chipolopolo won 3-2 on their way to losing 1-0 to hosts Namibia.
“However, there are certain things that we have recognized from their game that we shall share with our players and all their weak points we shall expose and their strengths we want to practically close,” Micho said.
Victory is imperative for Zambia with Group A leaders Eswatini looming on July 10 at the same venue.
“We look forward to entering the match in the best possible way that could give us a win going into the remaining matches ahead of us,” Micho said.
This will be Micho’s second tournament after reaching the 2021 CHAN quarterfinals in Cameroon but that was exclusively with the domestic team and this time the Serb is blessed with his five key regulars based on the continent.
Veteran Goalkeeper and 2012 AFCON winner Kennedy Mweene returns from self-imposed exile for the first time since November 2018 to feature for Micho since the Serbs appointment in February 2020.
Micho is also blessed with the strongest COSAFA Cup side assembled to date since 2008 that includes Amazulu forward Augustine Mulenga, Cape Town City striker Justin Shonga and TP Mazembe defender Kabaso Chongo who are all Chipolopolo A team players.
Zesco United defender Simon Silwimba also back after a two-year hiatus and he will be one of three COSAFA call-ups from the newly crowned FAZ Super League champions.
Silwimba’s club mate and influential midfielder Kelvin Mubanga is set to start against Lesotho in his first COSAFA return since 2018.
Mubanga is back in the fold after withdrawing from Zambia’s June friendly tour of Senegal, Benin and Sudan due to personal reasons.