By Fred Kaweesi in Nelspruit
Burkina Faso v Zambia 8pm
Ethiopia v Nigeria 8pm
IT is approximately three months since Zambia and Uganda clashed in that memorable fixture at Namboole Stadium.
And yet to Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, it feels just like yesterday.
The Free State Stars’ custodian has profound memories of the Chipolopolo’s miraculous escape in Kampala, where he hinted that ‘luck’ more than anything proved the difference in deciding their destiny to South Africa.
“We needed all the luck in Kampala and got it. We have always had it and I hope it comes our way again against Burkina Faso because it’s going to be a tough game,” Mweene told New Vision Online ahead of the Chipolopolo’s must-win fixture against The Stallions at the Mbombela Stadium.
The African champions are teetering on the brink of elimination from the 2013 Orange Nations Cup after a dismal run in the tournament.
Should the Chipolopolo fail to beat The Stallions, they will suffer the embarrassment of becoming the first second defending champions to fail to progress out of the knockout stage in 23 years.
Algeria were the last defending champions to be eliminated in the group stages after winning the title in 1990 and faltering two years later in Senegal.
Zambia’s two 1-1 draws against Ethiopia and Nigeria have left their chances hanging by a thread as the Super Eagles are expected to overcome the Antelopes in the other game.
It could have been different for Zambia had they played with purpose in their previous two games.
The one man though who has not disappointed is Mweene. Africa’s finest penalty stopper stood up with the vital save against Cranes midfielder Patrick Ochan in Kampala to guarantee qualification, did the same against Ethiopia, then Nigeria against John Obi Mikel before stepping up to take the winning kick to ensure a share of the spoils.
“I normally find them (penalties) easy but Cranes surprised me. They took them well but the last guy (Ochan) wasn’t confident, so it was easy,” he added.
For Zambia to succeed, it will be imperative that aside from Mweene, the rest of the team’s top players come to the party.
Christopher Katongo has still failed to spark and was substituted in two consecutive games.
“We know the importance of the last game and we will be ready. Nigeria also have to win but it won’t be easy,” Katongo pointed.
Herve Renard could recall Hiachi Himonde back to the side alongside Stopilla Sunzi to try and counter Burkina Faso’s gangly forwards that include Saladin Said and mercurial playmaker Jonathan Pitroipa.
“We are here to do bigger than we did before. We stand a chance of qualifying because lesser teams are doing well in this competition. So that motivates us,” Burkina Faso coach Paul Put stated yesterday.