Battered, bruised, embarrassed and humiliated, Zambia head into their final Group C match against defending Africa Cup champions Egypt tomorrow in Kumasi looking for a respectable result ahead of another prospective early round exit.
It is very hard to imagine Zambia’s leaky defence recovering after that comical performance against Cameroon to hold up against a rampaging and efficient Egyptian team on Wednesday.
Egypt, who lead Group C on maximum six points from their two games, already has an eye on the quarterfinal and ultimately onwards to that February 10 final date after convincing wins over Cameroon and Sudan.
There has been a lot of spin from Kumasi about wound-licking Zambia’s chances against Egypt following that soft defeat at the hands of Cameroon last Saturday.
But Zambia have not defeated Egypt since 1996 and judging by the void in class between the two teams at this years final, it would be a miracle to end that 12-year-old record.
Furthermore, Coach Patrick Phiri has tried to sound upbeat about Wednesday’s game.
Phiri has promised changes to Zambia’s unsettled defence that was probed by inexperienced Sudan and dissected by seasoned Cameroon.
Defenders Clive Hachilensa and Joseph Musonda will need to dip a little more into the fountain of youth for a laxative to try and spark some brave inspiration against Egypt’s attack.
And will Phiri kiss and forgive Kennedy Nkethani or will Lusaka Dynamos’ Hichani Himoonde be thrust yet again into the deep end of another potential baptism of fire?
Meanwhile, the lack of a truly authoritative defensive midfield will continue to hurt Zambia going into their final game against Egypt baring more pressure on an already fragile defence that we all hope will not curve-in and snap again for a second successive game.
Isaac Chansa and Phiri’s laboring old protégé Ian Bakala are in for another busy night to remember in midfield in a game Zambia will attempt to shame the naysayer’s and appease their brave believers.
We also await another electrifying performance by the in-form midfielder Felix Katongo who was man of the match in the game against Cameroon.
Upfront, Jacob Mulenga, Felix Sunzu and Christopher Katongo should start to say the least.
And in the other Group C match to be played simultaneously in Tamale, Cameroon hope to complete their rally in the pool with a win over bottom placed Sudan.
A win for second placed Cameroon, who are on three points together with third positioned Zambia, would be enough to see the four-time Africa Cup champions through even if Phiri’s team beat Egypt on Wednesday thanks to a better goal difference.