By Fred Kaweesi
Zambia v Uganda (5.30pm)
UNDER normal circumstances, today’s high-profile friendly between Uganda and Zambia would not have to generate too much anxiety from either side.
After all it is supposed to be a mere friendly. But then again, you do not need rocket science to understand that the word ‘friendly’ will not be reflected anywhere when the two sides face-off at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium You only have to reassess the teams assembled by both countries to understand that.
Zambia have assembled their best possible squad, virtually the same side that edged Cranes 1-0 in the first leg play-off of the 2013 Nations Cup qualifiers at the same venue two years ago. And the reason is simple.
Chipolopolo coach Patrice Beaumelle would love to win his first home fixture since assuming the top seat besides providing a spectacle for the home fans.
“It is the desire of every coach to use his best players and I think the coming of foreign-based players will provide something for the fans to watch,” Beaumelle told the Times of Zambia.
His Ugandan counterpart Micho Sredojevic has tried to assemble a similarly strong squad that should be able to compete irrespective of the absence of first team players Geoffrey Massa, Tony Mawejje and Henry Kalungi.
The Serbian told Zambian media that: “We will do everything possible on the pitch to collect a better result.”
Cynics claim such non-competitive matches have no purpose; that get-togethers would be better for exhausted players, but every minute the assembled Cranes team will spend developing their understanding as a unit at the 44,000-capacity Stadium in Ndola will be time well spent.
If Cranes are to prosper in the forthcoming 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers, dress rehearsals such as this could prove hugely significant. Micho has often stated that his priorities are assembling a team that will earn Uganda a place at the finals for the first time since 1978.
The pain in Zambia’s ranks will stem from Sochaux striker Emmanuel Mayuka, veteran Christopher Katongo and the mercurial Rainford Kalaba.
In the absence of Mawejje, Micho will stick with the Aucho Khalid-Geoffrey Kizito midfield partnership that started during the CECAFA Challenge Cup in Kenya last year.
If the two can successfully frustrate Sochaux star Nathan Sinkala, then attacking midfielders Moses Oloya, Sula Matovu and striker Emmanuel Okwi will prove a handful for the Zambian defence.