Midfield whiz-kid and Man of the Match in the opening game against Tunisia, Rainford Kalaba faces a late fitness test tomorrow afternoon as the Chipolopolo continue preparing for a must-win showdown against the Panthers of Gabon at the Estadio Nacional Ombaka in Benguela.
The Chipolopolo team doctor is monitoring the fitness of joint leading scorer Jacob Mulenga and goalkeeper Jacob Banda, who both have picked up knocks. However, the duo’s problems are not as serious as Rainford Kalaba’s thigh problem.
Zambia national team doctor, Joseph Kabungo, told fazfootball.com that Rainford’s thigh strain was serious and he has since decided on giving the Portuguese-based midfielder a late test before advising coach Herve Renard on whether to include him in his plans for Gabon or not.
“Rainford has thigh injury. At the moment it is not looking good and we don’t want to play him when he is not fit. We’re better off using him when he’s fully recovered, especially in the quarterfinal match next week. I say quarterfinal because the team is good enough to get a result, so we’re looking forward, but of course not losing focus of our immediate task — that is to get a win against Gabon.”
“We will see how he comes out in training this morning and decide tomorrow if he will be ready or not. We will do a fitness test and if he is not going to come out, we have to rest him and let him recover fully so that he can be in better shape for the next round. There’s no need to risk him now at a below par performance and lose him for the entire tournament,” Dr Kabungo said, adding: “We need him to be 100 per cent fit.”
In training after arrival from Lubango on Monday evening, Rainford retired early and did not do the usual free kicks and solo runs that are characteristic of his daily training schedules.
The rest of the team went through their paces very well, with everyone putting in their best as they responded to coach Herve Renard’s call for maximum input to ensure that the squad was ready and fit to take down the Panthers.
Renard did not take kindly to his squad’s result against Cameroon, telling his players to make good in training by putting in their best to ensure that a victory against Gabon was attained for the Chipolopolo to progress to the next round.