GHANA coach Goran Stevanovic has described Group C of the Africa Zone 2014 Brazil World Cup qualifiers as the ‘group of death’ and that the Black Stars must show character to qualify to the second round.
The Black Stars have been drawn against Sudan and Zambia while Lesotho or Burundi will complete the group after a playoff set for November this year.
Stevanovic said he expects both Zambia and Sudan to be tough opponents because the two teams have improved.
“It is not an easy draw. You have to be really, really focused and play every game like a final and we really need to be very careful, especially against Zambia.
“We (Ghana) have the track record and the character so we are obviously the favourites but that is not to say that the other teams, Sudan and Zambia, will also not do well,” he said.
The Serbian-born coach told Ghanaian Chronicle that since every nation wants to qualify for the World Cup, the Black Stars will need to work hard to secure their third successive qualification.
.”It is good that we avoided teams like Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Nigeria in the first round, but I can tell you that there is no easy team again in African football.
“We will start our preparations when we get the team together in London for our friendly match and then it is just a short time before our next Africa Cup qualifier,” Stevanovic said.
Ghana will face rivals Nigeria in an international friendly on August 9 at Vicarage Road Stadium in London.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya said the Chipolopolo should be wary of Ghana.
Kalusha said qualification for the World Cup finals will be a marathon race.
“We are in a tough draw but it could have been worse but I think we have enough fire power to qualify to the next round although we should be wary of Ghana who in my view are currently the best team on the continent,” Kalusha said.
He said the Chipolopolo will have enough time to prepare for the qualifiers.
“What we will do at next year’s Africa Cup of Nations finals will surely be an indicator of how far we can go in the World Cup qualifiers. So it is important for us to do well in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon,” he said.
He said at the moment the Chipolopolo should focus on securing a spot at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Veteran commentator Dennis Liwewe has described Zambia’s 2014 World Cup qualifying draws as fair.
Liwewe said the teams that Zambia has been drawn against are formidable but history has shown that the Chipolopolo play better when the challenge is big.
“No doubt Ghana is a formidable side we all saw how they performed at the World Cup in South Africa but the team that Zambia has at the moment is also formidable. The boys have been together for a long time and they are now ripe,” Liwewe said.
He is confident Zambia will pull through to the next round although he predicted a tough encounter against the Black Stars.
Liwewe also cautioned the national team against underrating opponents because there are no underdogs in football anymore.
Liwewe called on the football fraternity to take seriously President Banda’s initiative for a stakeholders meeting to strategise for the 2014 World Cup.
“Now that the draws are out, we must take seriously President Banda’s stakeholders’ meeting. We now know the teams we are going to play, so this will help us have a successful meeting, I really thank the President for his initiative it came at a right time.
“I know Zambia has never been be scared of any big name and with the right preparations we shall definitely qualify,” he said.
Zambia Football Coaches Association general secretary Simataa Simataa welcomed the draws saying Zambia stands a chance of making it for the World Cup.
Simataa said it is good that Zambia has been paired with Ghana because the two teams have not met at the big stage for a long time.
“It is a tough group for us especially with Ghana’s improvement but not insurmountable. Ghana and Zambia are favourites to qualify but I am putting my money on Zambia,” he said.
Former international defender Dickson Makwaza said Ghana and Sudan are just names which should not give Zambians sleepless nights.
Makwaza said the two teams are worried for having been drawn in the same group with Zambia.
He said there is need to give the players and the technical bench all the support to enable them deliver desired results in the qualifiers.
“It is a fair draw for Zambia. What we need to do is to just prepare adequately by engaging our boys in quality preparations. They need to play friendly matches against strong teams to gauge their strength.
“I must also state that there is nothing like big teams in football. What matters in football is preparations and team selection. The boys can give us the result when we give them all the support,” said Makwaza, who featured for national team from 1967 to 1974.
Zambia Voluntary Soccer Fans Association patron Peter Makembo urged national team coach Dario Bonetti to prepare the team adequately.
Makembo said all the teams in the group are strong and it is important for Bonetti to prepare the team adequately.
Chipolopolo Soccer Fans Association chairman Yotam Mwanza called for hard work and adequate preparations.
“The draw is fair, we can’t ask for anything better than we have been given. We just need to prepare well,” Mwanza said.
Veteran coach Boniface Simutowe described the draw as tough.
Coach Frederick Kashimoto said the draws are fair but warned that without good preparations, Zambia should forget qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Kashimoto said the technical bench should also summon all the foreign-based players who are performing well at their respective clubs.
Nkana coach Linos Makwaza said there is no need to fear Ghana and Sudan.
Makwaza said Zambian football is on course and is confident that the Chipolopolo will make it for the World Cup.
“Bonetti should cast the net wide when selecting national team players. We expect him to consult Super Division coaches and other senior coaches when selecting players. We should not fear any team,” Makwaza said.
Power Dynamos technical advisor Fordson Kabole called for hard work from all stakeholders.