Living Inside Zambia Coach Nyirenda’s Head: How The Chipolopolos Are Likely To Play Against Nigeria On Saturday

Living Inside Zambia Coach Nyirenda’s Head: How The Chipolopolos Are Likely To Play Against Nigeria On Saturday

From Kayode Ogundare, who was in Accra: 

One (dis)advantage of going undercover for any assignment is the likelihood of you falling in love with your quarry.

I must admit I didn’t think much about Zambia coach Wedson Nyirenda until the last few days when I got the brief that I was going to be covering the Chipolopolos’ preparations at their Accra, Ghana training camp.

nyirenda

Wedson Nyirenda (Zambia Coach)

And, after watching him work at close quarters with his players in four training sessions at the Marcel Dassailly-owned Lizzy Training Complex, I want to pretend that I know enough of how his mind is working ahead of the all-important World Cup qualifier against Nigeria on Saturday at the magnificent Godswill Akpabio International Stadium in Uyo.

For starters, Zambia’s preparations have been bogged down by injuries and withdrawals, and the possibility of captain and first-choice goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene not been fully fit for the game.

Mweene – Concerns persist about his fitness for the game

So, acting on this premise, I won’t be surprised if stand-in goalkeeper Toaster Nzabata gets the nod if Mweene fails to make the team.

I don’t know why but I think Nyirenda is working on the assumption that the soft underbelly of the Nigerian team is in their defence, especially the full-backs, and he’s working hard to exploit that frailty. All through the training sessions, assistant coach Aggrey Chiyanji was constantly in charge of the strikers and their routine comprised mainly of trying to break down the full-backs with Fashion Sakala and Alex N’gonga doing quick runs to the right and left while relying on thorough balls from the midfield anchor which would likely be Enoch Mwepu or Chisamba Lungu or even both of them depending on what formation the coach decides on.

Young but influential midfielder Mwepu

In the middle of the park, I expect the experienced Konduani Mtonga and Kabaso Mulenga to support Mwepu and Lungu in a four-man midfield but, should Nyirenda chose a more offensive formation, Mtonga gets my vote to play with Mwepu and Lungu in midfield in a 4-3-3 formation.

A 4-3-3 formation will mean a mobile four-man defence and I will vote Simon Silwimba, Fackson Kapumbu, Ziyo Tembo and the imposing Stoppila Sunzu. If for nothing else, this quartet has played together in the back-to-back victories over Algeria and that familiarity will help understanding among them.

Big, imposing Sunzu (R) will be massive at the back for Zambia

Now, stretching it further, an adventurous Nyirenda knows he cannot afford to sit back and allow the Super Eagles to come at his team so he’s condemned to attack and a three-man attack looks very attractive.

Sakala, N’Gonga and Patson Daka(if he shakes off his knock) should get the starting nod against Nigeria and this, I must say, is a pretty strong side able to eke out a result.

Zambian hopes rest on the young Sakala

Tactically, the strategy is to nullify Nigeria’s very offensive play by stifling the attacking intent of the Super Eagles. This is where Sunzu’s imposing build and the experience of Mtonga and Mulenga will come in handy.

Conventional wisdom will dictate that a coach be wary of a backlash against the venomous firepower of the Nigerian team, especially at the Uyo stadium where they have scored seven goals in two games in World Cup, but Nyirenda is anything but conventional.

If anything, he’s a maverick. I give him an A for boldness and guts. He’s doing what most African coaches rarely do: look so-called star players in the face and drop them.

If calling the bluff of players like Fwayo Tembo was not enough, dropping Rainford Kalaba took some guts. I thought he was and still is a decent player. Besides, he’s captained the team. Who drops captains????

Nyirenda’s quiet revolution will yield fruit for Zambia in time provided he stays on track and the Football Association allow him to continue in the job.

However, meeting Nigeria at this stage, with a World Cup ticket at stake, is a bridge too far. We may underrate our own team, and I’m not saying this lightly, but the Super Eagles is one of, if not, Africa’s most attack-minded team. There are just too many offensive pressure points in the team such that you can’t plug all at once.

zambia-players-train-ahead-of-clash-with-eagles

Zambia’s time will come, maybe in 2022 because the current squad, made up of very young players is too talented not to play at the highest level.

Now time to look into my crystal ball and hazard a guess as to what Zambia’s probable starting line-up would be on Saturday.

My guess is as follows: Mweene; Silwimba, Kapumbu, Sunzu,Tembo; Mtonga, Mulenga, Lungu, Mwepu; Daka, Shonga

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COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 7
  • sola 2 weeks

    Nice one.

  • ako amadi 2 weeks

    So much is written on tactical approaches of coaches, but a vital factor in this game is the position the Zambians find themselves in. They have come to Nigeria to win at all costs against a formidable opponent. Attacking a superior opponent away is a tough ask, and as the game progresses the Zambians will get more desperate and throw caution to the wind. Most of these Zambians have not played much at the professional level to keep calm and remember the manager’s instructions. They will be playing with much heart and little head. This is where the Super Eagles will catch them cold, and teach them a few lessons about football.

  • This is a nice undercover work. The only problem I have is that I am so unfamiliar with their names. Even the so call popular goalkeeper. One thing I pick from your undercover work is that the Zambian coach is determine to play it face-face. Ok o. That will be good for Victor Moses, Odion Ighalo, Alex Iwobi and Etebo. Our defence is capable. I thought they will come to defend and park’d bus. Maybe he has eyes on Elderson Echiejile’s wing. He will fail. We have Victor Moses who can assist. Of course Aina Ola is standby to takeover. Well done James Bond.

  • Sean 2 weeks

    In fact….James Bond indeed…007

  • Charles shilaka 2 weeks

    Super Eagles on mind. Good luck boys!

  • charles emeka okwu 2 weeks

    If am a super eagle player i will celebrate all our goals in front of this loud mouthed coach. I cant for tommorow to come by

  • Mike 2 weeks

    Wow. You got this spot on! The Zambians played like you predicted.