GOAL-SHY STRIKERS THREATEN TO DERAIL ZAMBIA - Friday, January 08, 2010
Zambia coach Herve Renard needs only a few seconds to discover the problem threatening to derail the ambitions of a 2010 Orange African Nations Cup quarterfinals place.

In 10 qualifying matches leading to Angola, Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) managed to score a miserly four goals and no player was on target more than once for a national team with a dismal recent Cup record.

Since finishing third in 1996 -- the last time Southern Africa staged the biennial African football showcase -- Zambia have qualified for five of six tournaments and made a first round exit every time.

Renard, who is at 41 the youngest of five French coaches who will perform sideline patrols in Angola, has vowed to do better and set his squad a quarter-finals target.

That will not be easy in Group D, where revitalised Cameroon are favourites and considered potential champions; Tunisia have much to prove after falling at the final World Cup hurdle and Gabon boast a young squad packed with promise.

"Our target is to reach the second round," stressed Renard to Zambian reporters before heading for a pre-tournament camp in South Africa where Chipolopolo defeated Mozambique and held Nigeria.

"In life one makes progress step by step. When I arrived in this country my ambition was to qualify for the African Nations Cup. Now we want to go to the next step."

But poor finishing continued to plague the team in warm-up games as they struck just one against Mozambique and none against Nigeria. Renard is running short of time to discover a solution.

Germany-based captain Christopher Katongo, offers the best hope as he was a consistent scorer at international level until affected by the malaise that gripped the entire team during the 2010 qualifiers.

While Zambia did face formidable qualifying opponents in Togo, Egypt and Algeria, the same cannot be said of minnows Swaziland and Rwanda, who conceded only one goal each over 180 minutes.

China-based James Chamanga and Collins Mbesuma of South African club Moroka Swallows, are potential partners for Katongo, whose younger brother, Felix, is a likely midfield starter.

Many of the squad play in South Africa, including goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, from Free State Stars, on whom much may depend given the failure to convert chances at the other end.