By MICHAEL MIYOBA
ZAMBIA national team coach Avram Grant has defended the selection of the 29-member provisional squad in camp to prepare for the crucial June 17 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Ivory Coast at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Grant, who has named a number of questionable stars in his squad said he picked players who he believes will fight for the country.
Grant has banned two players for not showing willingness to represent the country and said he struggled to include goal keeper Toaster Nsabata in the squad after the player was released by South African outfit Sekhukhune United.
The former Chelsea coach however noted that Nsabata, Power Dynamos goalkeeper Lawrence Mulenga who conceded five goals in the final game of the season and all the players who have been summoned deserve to play for the national team but it is up to them to prove themselves.
“They deserve to be there. You know the issue with goal keepers most of them in the league are foreigners and the fact that Lawrence allowed five goals in the last game, I don’t judge players based on one game,” Grant said.
“Lawrence had a fantastic season. I watched the game and I think Power Dynamos came to celebrate they forgot the game and Toaster is not playing and it was not an easy decision to call him to the national team, if you know in many national team players don’t play at their clubs but because of the issue we have with goal keepers, we decided to call four goal keepers to see them,” he said.
On Patson Daka and Lubambo Musonda who features for Leicester City and Śląsk Wrocław, the two sides which were relegated from the English Premier League and the Polish league respectively, Grant is hopeful that the demotions will inspire the two players to give their best against Ivory Coast.
“Relegation will affect them in a good way. Of course, they are sad and we are not happy as well but we will give them more motivation to show themselves and see that they are very good players and didn’t deserve to be relegated,” Grant said.
Asked about the decision Daka should make after his club was relegated, Grant said; “The best decision he can make is to play very well against Ivory Coast. The other thing is that they are professionals and sometimes you are relegated, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and you need to learn how to deal with any situation.”
Grant said he respects his players and was ready for the headache they would give him as they prepare for Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile, the Chipolopolo yesterday flew to South Africa for an international camp in Johannesburg prior to the clash against Ivory Coast.
The Chipolopolo are second in Group H with 9 points, one point behind leaders Ivory Coast and six points ahead of third-placed Comoros Islands.
A draw in the June 17 fixture in Ndola will be enough to secure a return to the prestigious continental championship after missing the last three editions.