By Darious Kapembwa in Marrakech, Morocco
IVORY COAST coach Ibrahima Kamara says Zambia is toughest team at this year’s CAF African Nations Championships (CHAN). And Namibia coach Ricardo Manneti says his team should not be underrated.
Zambia and Ivory Coast meet in the next group game on Wednesday, a match that will clearly dictate the direction of the group with regards to who plays in the knockout rounds.
Kamara said Zambia had an advantage because most of the local players at this year’s tournament have been playing in the World Cup and the AfCON qualifiers as part of coach Wedson Nyirenda’s rebuilding process.
“Zambia has always been a good team. They have very good local players who have been playing in the World Cup and Africa Cup qualifiers. And this year, Zambia will even be harder to beat in this tournament. They have the most experienced players here. And Zambia naturally is very tough at such competitions, so it will be very tough meeting them in the competition,” sad Kamara.
He said his team which was equally good had the same pressure like all other teams in the competition because it was a different competition.And Manneti whose team plays Zambia in the final group game in Casablanca on January 22 said he was happy his team was carrying the underdogs tag. Namibia which has had no local league for two years prior to the qualifiers shocked the bookmakers by qualifying at the expense of perpetual participants Zimbabwe.
“We did not have the league for two years but we qualified against the odds. That shows that we are here to compete. In fact we are enjoying the underdogs status but even underdog is a dog. It’s got teeth to bite,” Manneti said.
“We have not changed the formula. Looking at the way we qualified, and beating Zimbabwe to qualify, is big statement that we are not here to participate but compete. Our object is to make it out of the group. But I think football must be respected, we deserve to be respected, football is bigger than Ivory Coast and Zambia. We are going to show that we have the fighting spirit because that’s what we have,” said Manneti whose team faced Ivory Coast in the opening game yesterday.