ZAMBIA tonight begin the quest for a slot at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games with a tricky match against Tunisia at Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium.
Hosts Senegal face South Africa in the other Group A match that will kick off at 18:00 hours.
Both Zambia coach Fighton Simukonda and his Tunisian counterpart Maher Kanzari are confident their teams will triumph in the opening match at the Africa Under-23 Championship.
“The team is okay, we’re looking forward to the game. I am sure it will be an interesting one because our aim is to go far in this tournament,” Simukonda said.
Zambia have not competed in the football tournament at the Olympic Games since 1988 and Simukonda is eager to end the 27-year absence.
Simukonda, technical advisor George Lwandamina and assistant coach Tenant Chilumba know what is at stake and will plot Tunisia’s downfall.
To hit the ground running, Simukonda will look to Egypt-based striker Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba and Zimbabwe-based forward Obrey Chirwa.
The two forwards should up their game to break the Tunisian rearguard of Ali Abdi, Seddik Mejir and Slimane Kchok.
“I am going to Senegal to score goals, I don’t know about others,” said Chirwa in Lusaka on Tuesday before departure for Dakar.
Friday Samu and Patrick Ngoma are other options in attack.
The teams have met once at under-23 level, with Tunisia edging Zambia 1-0 in the third place play-off at the 2007 Algiers All-Africa Games.
With Armenia-based midfielder Lubambo Musonda joining the team on Monday, Simukonda will unleash teenage Conlyde Luchanga on the right flank with John Ching’andu on the opposite side.
Paul Katema will function in an attacking midfield role while Jackson Chirwa will anchor the midfield, offering cover to the defence.
“The first game is always important. We want to win and ease pressure on ourselves going into the second match,” Simukonda said.
But Tunisia will rely on Edem Rejaibi and Chadly Ghrab to start with for victory and the defence of Benedict Chepeshi, Boyd Mkandawire, Kapota Kayawe and Solomon Sakala should be impregnable.
Skipper Toaster Nsabata is a sure bet between the sticks and will certainly have to be called upon to show his mettle against the Tunisian strike force.
“It will be a tough match. Zambia is a good side but we have prepared well and we are ready for them,” said Kanzari at a briefing in Dakar yesterday.
At senior level, Tunisia have dominated in the last 10 meetings, winning five, with four matches ending in draws while the Chipolopolo have won once.
Team doctor Mwila Lupasha gave the players a clean bill of health.
The top three teams will qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games while the fourth side will face an Asian side in the play-offs.