Southern Africa well represented in CHAN quarter finals
Southern Africa has put on a surprisingly good showing at the ongoing 2018 African Nations Championship in Morocco, with all three of their entrants making it through to this weekend's quarter finals.
The competition is open to players who ply their trade in their local leagues, and while the success of Zambia in reaching the knockout stages is perhaps of little surprise, Namibia and perhaps to a lesser extent Angola, have performed above expectations.
All three teams from the region went through the pool stages unbeaten, but will be sternly tested in the quarter finals
Namibia take on hosts Morocco in Casablanca on Saturday, while Angola must find a way past Nigeria. Zambia appear to be the side with the best chance of advancing as they tackle Sudan.
Zambia finished top of Group B, ahead of Namibia on goal difference, and they are wary of the looming challenge of Sudan.
"Sudan is not a pushover team, they have been a thorn in our flesh most of the time we have played them," Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda told the Zambian Football Association.
"Going into this game it is not going to be easy, they gave Morocco a very good run and they are playing very well, they are highly tactical and disciplined players.
"I think we need to adhere to our tactical plan and rise up to the occasion better than we did against Namibia [1-1 draw] and these other games."
Nyirenda says his side will have to raise their level another notch if they are to lift the trophy this year.
"As the games are moving to the next stages, the games are getting tougher," he added. "The teams that are remaining are doing their best, the coaches must do their best and players too."
Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti says all the pressure will be on their quarter-final opponents Morocco, and that his team can play with freedom in their last-eight clash.
The Brave Warriors have already beaten Ivory Coast and Uganda in the pool stages, to go with their draw against Zambia, and Mannetti is convince they can advance further.
"We are sniffing the semi finals and we are not under pressure against Morocco," he told the Namibia Football Association website. "They are the host and the stadium will be full of their support. We will go out there as underdogs that we have been and enjoy ourselves.
"We deserve our moment with a packed stadium and on Saturday we will have just that."
Mannetti says the tournament has been superb for giving his side exposure and believes the tournament should remain amid rumours it may be scrapped.
"We are not like the big nations in Africa that have players all over the world," he continued. "We are Namibia and this tournament is ideal for our players to shine and be noticed and they have done that so far.
"So I plead with CAF, Please CAF President don't take this tournament away.
"To stay relevant and on top you need to play the best and move forward. We are on a good run for about three years now and I hope it continues on Saturday against Morocco. We hoping for the best result for our team."
Angola finished second in their Group D despite just a single goal scored in their three games, and that from the penalty spot in a 1-0 win over Cameroon.
The flipside is that they have yet to concede, a real positive for coach Srdjan Vasiljevic.
Angola were finalists in the second CHAN finals played in Sudan in 2011, but lost the decider 3-0 to Tunisia.
Zimbabwe were semi finalists in 2014, while no Southern African side made it past the quarter finals in 2016, with Zambia falling to Guinea on penalties at that stage.
Zambia were also semi finalists in the inaugural event in 2009, but lost to eventual winners the Democratic Republic of Congo.