- Published on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 03:53
- Written by DAILY NEWS Reporter
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MAINLAND giants Simba on Tuesday face an ardours task against the burgeoning forces of Azam FC in what promises to be an absorbing quarterfinal contest in this year's CECAFA Kagame Cup tournament.
The Simba versus Azam FC clash, at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam, will be preceded by the third quarterfinal match pitting Burundian side Atletico, against AS Vita of DR Congo in an equally much-anticipated clash based on the form both sides have shown so far.
But most soccer fans will arguably focus their attention at the last of the four quarterfinal ties between six-time record winners, Simba and Azam FC, who are making maiden appearance at the regional championship.
It has been something of an underwhelming start to regional championship for the 2011 finalists, with Simba conceding a 2-0 defeat to URA in their Group A opener.
They regrouped and cruised to a 3-0 win over a hapless Ports of Djibouti, but were made to toil on their way to a 1-1 draw with AS Vita in the final match of the group stage. Next up is a clash with Stewart Hall's Azam FC, who performed inconsistently on their way to a runner-up finish in Group B.
Widely expected to top their pool, Azam dominated possession in a dour 1-1 draw with Mafunzo and could only manage a goalless draw with Tusker FC of Kenya to settle for second place in group B. Despite making it to the last eight neither of the two sides has lived up to its fans' expectations so far but now have the opportunity to earn a semi-final berth. Matches pitting Simba and Azam have always been a tight-affair.
The two sides met recently in the Friendship Cup final, in which Simba beat Azam 3-1 on penalties at the same venue to be crowned champions of the newly introduced competition that pitted teams from Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar.
The game had ended 2-2 after normal time. They also met during the group stage and fought to a 1-1 draw, which makes today's match to be tough. Simba head into the game with concerns over their strikers' performances in the group stages, needs to be at their collective best if they are to reach the semi-finals.
Zambian striker Felix Sunzu has been the main culprit, as he has struggled to score a goal in an open play. His only goal came from the spot kick against Ports but he missed one too against AS Vita in final minute of the game.
Simba head coach Milovan Cirkovic will therefore demand an improved performance from his Zambian hitman, especially with Abdallah Juma facing fitness concerns. While Simba are yet to really turn it on in any of their matches so far, they boast of massive experience when it comes to the regional meet and will be expected to summon their know-how against the inexperienced Azam FC.
Simba must hope their centre backs can hold their shape, with Lino Musombo likely to partner Juma Nyosso at the heart of defence, while looking to the talent of Haruna Moshi, Mwinyi Kazimoto and Felix Sunzu and to provide an outlet in attack.
Azam meanwhile will rely on Kipre Bolou, Ibrahim Mwaipopo, Ramadhan Chombo, Hamis Mcha to muffle their opponents, with strikers Kipre Tchetche, George Odhiambo and John Bocco favoured to lead the line.