Goal – Sun, Jan 20, 2013
ZAMBIA (4-3-3)MweeneMbola, Musonda, Mulenga, KatebeChanga, Kalaba, KatongoMayuka, Chamanza, Lungu
ETHIOPIA (4-4-2)TassewDebebe, Bekele, Said, MegezaKebede, Bogala, Elyes, TeshomeTesfaye, Girma
Ethiopia will be welcomed to the continental fold after a lengthy absence with a fixture against defending champions, Zambia.
The Walya Antelopes surprised everyone – perhaps including themselves – by securing a berth at the 2013 Afcon at the expense of neighbours Sudan.
The east African nation failed to convince the regional fanatics of their abilities after a drab performance during the regional Cecafa tournament, held in November 2012, led to a quarter-final exit.
But the impressive results registered in the latest build-up games, especially the 2-1 win over Tanzania, dictate more promise.
The talent is almost all home based, from the club sides Dedebit, Defence and Saint George. Just one professional plays club football outside Ethiopia – star striker Saladin Said, who features in the Egyptian Premier League.
The opening fixture will be crucial for both sides, and Zambia, who have vowed to defend their title at all costs, are seeking no less than three points.
Head coach Sewnet Bishaw, who has been in charge since November 2011, believes Ethiopia’s relative anonymity can help them spring a surprise in a group that contains holders Zambia, as well as Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
The players, having become national heroes through qualifying, do not want their journey to end in the group stage.
“We know Nigeria and Zambia are strong opponents, but they should not forget we qualified by beating Sudan, who played at the 2012 Cup of Nations,” said 27-year-old striker Adane Girma at a press conference.
“In the past, we had problems in beating opponents in away matches. Now this is history.
Psychologically we have shown encouraging improvements, and as a result we also have a chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”
Much of the weight of expectation will lie squarely on the shoulders of Girma and attacker Fuad Ibrahim.
Zambia boss Herve Renard has chosen to work with a majority of the squad that clinched the Afcon title in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon last year. Captain Christopher Katongo, TP Mazembe’s Stopilla Sunzu and English-based Emmanuel Mayuka are the players to watch in this match.
DID YOU KNOW?
Herve Renard has been Zambia’s head coach during two separate spells, between 2008-2010 and from October 2011 until now.
Zambia gained entrance to the 2013 African Cup of Nations after winning a breath-taking penalty shootout 9-8 in Kampala against Uganda.
Zambia is ranked 34th in the world by Fifa compared to Ethiopia’s 110th place ranking.
Besides the Afcon triumph, the Chipolopolo have emerged runners-up on two occasions: 1974 & 1994.
Ethiopia have also won the Afcon once, in 1962 when they hosted it.
Sewnet Bishaw’s side have qualified for the Afcon on nine occasions, the most from an east African side.
Katongo (pictured, right) has a great deal of playing experience in South Africa for his former club
Jomo Cosmos and will be in familiar surroundings during the 2013 campaign.
Katongo has also played in Germany, Denmark and Greece and scored three vital goals in the 2012 Afcon campaign, including a priceless winner against Ghana in the semi-finals.