Zambias master penalty stopper on tricks of trade
Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene is fast becoming the Africa Cup of Nations penalty-saving king.
He denied Ivory Coast's Arsenal striker Gervinho in last year's spot-kick climax, enabling Zambia to claim the continental crown, and he was at it again here on Monday when he denied Ethiopia's Salahdin Said from the spot.
One of the best 'keepers in the competition and in the South African Premier League, Mweene is also one of Free State Stars' best takers of penalties.
He successfully converted his spot kick in the 2012 final and was named goalkeeper of the tournament.
After his heroics between the posts helped Zambia avoid defeat in their 1-1 opening Group C draw, Zambia coach Herve Renard was full of praise for the Lusaka-born 28-year-old.
"Today, we have to thank our goalkeeper -- without Kennedy Mweene it could have been a very, very bad result," the Frenchman said.
Mweene took time out at the team hotel in downtown Nelspruit on the eve of Zambia's second group tie with Nigeria to divulge some secrets of his penalty-saving prowess.
"The key to saving penalties? It's about training and practise, lots of practise, both with the national team and with my club.
"It may look easy, but you have to concentrate hard.
"As a goalkeeper, I have to be sharp and intelligent. I study how the penalty-taker positions himself, I watch his legs, I watch the angles when the player comes to strike the ball."
Mweene skippers Free State Stars and serves as vice-captain to Christopher Katongo for his country.
He joined Stars in 2005 from Zambian side Kitwe United, and his skill between the posts has been acknowledged with a 'keeper-of-the-season award on his sideboard.
He has remained loyal to his team despite lucrative offers from rival South African outfits.
Mweene made his debut for Zambia in 2004 and has been the first choice 'keeper since, competing here in his fifth Nations Cup.
Like Renard, Mweene was dissatisfied with Zambia's opening to their title defence.
"We were very disappointed with the result against Ethiopia, but God has different ways in which he works. So we take that draw as a blessing, as a gift from God, and will go on to win our next games.
"Will we qualify (for the quarter-finals? Yes!"
He refused to be drawn on how he felt facing the likes of dangerous Nigeria winger Victor Moses, who is set to play after missing his country's debut 1-1 stalemate with Burkina Faso.
"I respect all of the Nigerian players, everyone of them. I can't single out one like Moses -- we will take them on as a team."
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