Bafana, Zambia, Zim, Lesotho eye final
The semifinals of the Cosafa Cup Zambia 2013 provide two mouth-watering clashes involving some of the giants of the region when they take place in Ndola on Wednesday.
Four-time winners Zimbabwe take on Lesotho in a repeat of the 2000 final that was won by the former, while hosts Zambia tackle South Africa in a clash that is among the great derbies in the region.
The first match between the Warriors and Crocodiles kicks-off at 17h00, with Lesotho looking to improve on a record of just one win in their previous 15 games against Zimbabwe.
They came through a tough Group B in the competition after recording a win against Swaziland and draws with Botswana and Kenya, and also ousted Angola on penalties in the quarterfinals.
Those experiences could give them the edge against a Zimbabwean side who have played just one game, a nervy quarterfinal win on penalties over Malawi.
Lesotho coach Leslie Notsi says his team has already achieved their objectives at the COSAFA Cup Zambia 2013, but is now looking for them to push on.
“Our target was to reach the last four and we have managed to do that. Anything else will be a bonus to us and I’m happy that the boys are even more confident than ever that we will beat Zimbabwe on Wednesday,” he told reporters.
“We have seen their type of play and we know they want to knock the ball around, but we have a strategy to counter that, so we know what to do in the match. We will be playing on a artificial turf which is best suited for us.
“I have respect for the defending champions but I believe my boys want to leave the tournament with some bit of history and if luck is on our side with the trophy.”
Notsi’s counterpart with Zimbabwe, Klaus Dieter Pagels, admits he is wary of their opponents.
"Lesotho are a strong and physical team. Most of the time they prefer to make one, two passes and then pump the long ball trying to use their strong forwards," Pagels said.
The German coach has already stated that he will leave Zimbabwe after the COSAFA Cup Zambia 2013 tournament, making this his last shot at glory.
South Africa and Zambia will play their semifinal at 20h00, with a great history between these two sides.
Zambia beat Bafana Bafana 1-0 last November, one of five wins to South Africa’s four in the 15 previous meetings between the teams.
“This is the final before the final, Zambia is a very formidable side and could be dangerous at times,” Bafana coach Gordon Igesund said. “They have the crowd behind them which should make for a highly-contested match. We have worked hard in preparation for this match, so we will play as a team this time around.
“I haven’t finalised my starting eleven as yet for Wednesday, but I think I will have about eight players who are under 23 years of age and this should be an interesting game. This is an exciting team and I believe they will hold their own against the home side.”
Chipolopolo coach Herve Renard wants his side to avenge their 2008 semifinal loss to South Africa, the last time the tams met in this competition.
“We have to play the final. This [quarterfinal] victory over Mozambique is a big motivation for us to revenge for that defeat we suffered to South Africa in the semifinals in 2008,” the Frenchman said.
Should Zambia make the final it will be the sixth time in the last seven tournaments that they have been in the championship decider, missing out only after that Last 4 defeat to South Africa in 2008.
Perhaps most worryingly for Chipolopolo fans is the fact that they have managed just one victory in that amazing run.