Coach of Underdogs Zambia Starts War of Words Against Black Stars


Zambia coach Herve Renard is heaping praise, platitudes and the mantle of match favorites onto his opponents for Wednesday's Nations Cup semi-final, taking all the pressure off the southern African side and trying instead to impose it on Ghana's Black Stars.
Zambia certainly will be the underdogs but by talking up their team, the young French-born coach is trying to start the war with words before the action in Bata begins.
It might prove a clever strategy. "They have been the best team in Africa in the past few years, they almost reached the World Cup semi-final," he told reporters in Bata. "We will need something special to beat them."
But the youthful French coach also warned that his intimate knowledge of the Ghana side would mean Zambia would be well prepared for its adversary. Renard was the assistant coach when Ghana reached the Nations Cup semi-finals four years ago.
Zambia also have a slight advantage in terms of preparation, having played their quarter-final against Sudan 24 hours earlier than Ghana's clash against Tunisia.
Zambia also had a routine 90-minute triumph while Ghana went through a bruising two hours of football before booking their semi-final place.
"The difficult part," said Ghana's assistant coach Kwesi Appiah, "is that most of our players have played about three-four games now and sometimes it's really difficult to get them to play at their maximum as you want in every game.
"The most important thing is making sure that they recuperate very well and make sure that they are in a good condition before the next game," he added. "It's not going to be easy to get everything the way you want but we would make sure they are all fully fit for our next game against Zambia."
Ghana will have only one practice session before Wednesday's semi-final.
They are hoping central defender John Mensah, carried off against Tunisia, recovers to lead the side again. Twice in this tournament he has picked up injuries. Zambia have no injury concerns.
Both sides have won three and drawn one game at the tournament. Zambia were semi-finalists last in 1996 while Ghana are into the final four for the third successive tournament.
BY MARK GLEESON

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