Twice runners-up at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations, Zambia are getting set to participate in their eighth continental finals out of the last nine. A model of consistency on the continent, the Zambians are nevertheless hunting their first African crown and the man intending to mastermind indescribable joy back home is one Patrick Phiri. caught up with the coach for an exclusive chat before the Zambians take on Egypt and Cameroon in a tough-looking group at Ghana 2008, which kicks off on 20 January. Patrick, what are your expectations for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations?
Patrick Phiri: I think it's fair to say that every team that goes to the Nations Cup finals has a dream of going home with the trophy. But when you see the teams we have drawn, you realise, on paper at least, that it is supposed to be difficult for us. But I'm a great believer that once you get on the pitch there is every potential for us to surprise a few people. We will keep alive our dream and we obviously want to win the cup.

When the draw was made in October and you were paired with Cameroon and Egypt, what was your initial reaction?
I was shaken! I never expected to be in the same group with both Cameroon and Egypt. But when you qualify you have to expect to meet all these strong teams because there is no way you can win the cup without going through these big giants. So, you have to face up to it and be prepared for them.

Is it an advantage that Zambia are not among the favourites?
Yes, I think so. We have a good team. It hasn't been by design but all of a sudden the quality of players at our disposal has really improved. We have good young players who have come up through the ranks recently and there is now a great balance of experienced players and high quality young players in the team. So I think if everything goes to plan, we can really do well in this tournament

What is the level of expectation like back in Zambia?
You must remember that Zambia was a power in our region for a long time. Then along came South Africa and Angola and both qualified for the World Cup and South Africa also won the Nations Cup. They have come on to the scene after us. They started below us but now they have achieved more than us. Zambians find that hard to digest and still have the dream that one day we will match that by winning the Nations Cup. So every time we qualify, the fans always think this is going to be the tournament where the dream will be realised.

So that should make for a lot of pressure.
The pressure is always there, but as a coach you have to learn to live with it.

What style of football can we expect to see from Zambia at Ghana 2008?
In our region we play with a lot of passion and enjoy it. The players like to express themselves, so expect a brand of exciting football from Zambia.

Do you feel you can surprise Cameroon and Egypt?
Yes, yes, we are hoping we are going surprise them. They are giants but we are hoping to surprise them. We haven't done really well at the last tournaments but this time around we hope to do a lot better.