CHIPOLOPOLO have a chance to get their Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign back on track when they host Guinea Bissau at Heroes Stadium this evening.
Chipolopolo started this campaign with a loss to current Group H leaders Mozambique and drawing the second game against Namibia and must now win back-to-back against the ‘minnows’ that stopped Zambia from qualifying to the 2017 finals held in Gabon.
In 2016, the ‘tiny’ West African nation ripped the script with a goalless draw against George Lwandamina’s Chipolopolo at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola and dramatically won 3-2 at home to deny Zambia a place at the Gabon finals.
Guinea Bissau’s fortunes have turned a page for the better since 70-year-old coach Baciro Cande returned for his second stint in charge of the national team.
He has brought in several European stars, mainly from former colonial master Portuguese top division and second tier sides, which has evidently changed the complexion of his team.
Captain Jose Luis Mendes, who plays at Slovakian side Senica FC, is one such example of the depth of talent in this emerging force in West African football.
However, a lot has changed since 2016 with Zambia almost overhauling the team that lost out to Guinea Bissau, coupled with the recent engagement of Belgian coach Sven Vandenbroeck.
The Belgian has a short performance-based contract covering the qualifying series and after drawing his first competitive assignment against Namibia, he must begin to pick up maximum points this evening.
“The two games are crucial. We don’t have to lie about it. It’s all or nothing. With zero [points] we are out completely; with four we are in there; with six [points], we have a good chance,” Sven said in pre-match comments.
He noted that expectations going into the match were high.
“The most important expectation is good result, so everyone has to be ready… We don’t have injuries that’s the good news. It’s a crucial game everyone has to be aware of that in their mind-set and that a home game we must win,” he said.
Sven said he was not concerned about players in the opposition camp but would concentrate on the strengths in his team.
His opposite number Cande believes the 2016 results against Zambia counts for nothing and fears the former Under-20 players may hurt his team.
“The game is very important, the last time we played Zambia we did our work but it will not be easy. I don’t really try to think about keeping it, trying to win every game, every game is important, Zambia is an excellent team…2017 is not the same as 2018. We see every game as important, that we won the last game doesn’t mean will win the next game. Zambia is an excellent team and I heard that the U-20 is an excellent team and their players are in the team. This game is important and the technical training of the team has been going very well,” said Cande ahead of the game.
To get the result, Sven who has promised a smile on Zambians’ faces is expected to ring changes to get a better result than he got against Namibia.
Midfielder Enock Mwepu said the team was ready to give its all for the country.
The game kicks off at 18:00 hours and will be live on Supersport television.
The return leg will take place in Bissau on Sunday.