African champions, Zambia, will today be the centre of attraction when they come up in a high profile international friendly against 2002 World Cup semi-finalists South Korea at the 18, 000 capacity Anyang Stadium, 50 kilometres outside Seoul.
The Zambians are getting ready for their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations final qualifying round match against Uganda and such a friendly could not have come at a better time than this.
Coach Herve Renard’s major concern is that atleast six of his possible starters against Uganda will miss this fixture. Four of the missing six players had made the first 11 of the Africa Cup of Nations when Zambia was winning the tournament for the first time in February.
Today, five players that will start against South Korea were not present in the starting line up that defeated Ivory Coast 11-12 on penalties after a goalless draw in that pulsating and memorable cup final.
Defender Joseph Musonda is still recovering from a long term injury picked in that Africa Cup of Nations final while playmaker Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, Hichani Himoonde and Stophilla Sunzu are committed to club duty at TP Mazembe.
TP Mazembe, the Democratic Republic of Congo side, is engaged in a CAF Champions League fixture against Zamalek this weekend and could, therefore, not release its players for Chipolopolo’s assignment.
It now remains on Renard to select a formidable side that will handle the Koreans before their home fans with the match going live on national broadcaster ZNBC to give an opportunity to Zambians to see how their team is improving.
Zambia has played two competitive matches against Ghana which they won 1-0 and earlier lost to Sudan 2-0 since the Africa Cup of Nations was played and the same case has applied to their commitments in international friendlies.
Chipolopolo lost to Malawi 1-0 before recovering with a 2-1 win over Zimbabwe and will make it five international matches today.
The absence of Renard’s dependable central defence partnership of Himoonde and Sunzu paves way for new entrant Aaron Katebe of Hwange while Chintu Kampamba’s experience will be vital.
Portugal-based defender Emmanuel Mbola who also missed the Africa Cup of Nations due to a FIFA ban after he signed professional contracts with more than three clubs is back on the Chipolopolo front.
The 2010 Africa Cup of Nations revelation is expected to step in for Musonda in left-back position while South Africa-based Davis Nkausu goes for the right-back place.
Renard, deputized by his country-mate Patrice Beumelle and Zambian Honour Janza, has enough options to explore in midfield although the usual suspects Kalaba and Sinkala will not be available.
China-based Isaac Chansa, William Njobvu, Noah Chivuta, Chisamba Lungu and Felix Katongo will line up for selection in midfield where Renard may pick three men and throw another three in skipper Christopher Katongo, Emmanuel Mayuka and James Chamanga upfront if he decides for an offensive 4-3-3 formation.
The Frenchman, however, is a firm believer in conservative formations that strengthens the midfield and leaves attack options open to counter attacks although the collection of the men at hand would have to prove they have the capacity to adapt to his 4-2-3-1 strategy.
Victory will give Renard, who is most likely going to maintain Golden Glove winner Kennedy Mween between the sticks, a lot of confidence before the Uganda showdown that will determine whether the champions will make it to South Africa to defend their crown or not.
Chipolopolo host Uganda on September 8 before traveling to Kampala to complete their qualification task on October 12.