Monday, June 24, 2024

Road to Ivory Coast 2023- The Zambian calculator

The most prestigious international tournament on the African Continent is upon us once more and this time, unwanted history beckons.

The Chipolopolo boys have failed to qualify for an unprecedented 3 consecutive AFCON finals. This is already unacceptable for a people who number themselves among the powerhouses of African football and a 4th failure would be calamitous.

The Kamanga-led administration should be hard-pressed to ensure the rot stops here and now.

The question is how?

The Chipolopolo boys have set about that by appointing Croatian Aljoša Asanović whose most notable acclaim is being a long-term assistant to former Croatia and West Bromwich Albion manager, Slaven Bilic.

The hope is that the Croat will come into his own with a youthful and promising Chipolopolo boys squad throughout the qualifiers.

The young Copper Bullets are headed by U-20 AFCON winner Enock Mwepu flanked by fellow winners Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka.

Five years on from their Continental triumph, the headline boys should come of age. It is expected more than anticipated.

The first numbers.

Zambians across the country were quickly punching calculators as soon as group H was concluded.

Take away automatic qualifiers Ivory Coast (Qualified as tournament hosts) and it’s a straight COSAFA shootout for the remaining qualifying slot.

Fans of the Chipolopolo Boys would certainly have fancied themselves against the Ivorians, having bettered them a decade ago when the Copper bullets broke the proverbial duck. The bookies would beg to differ though and have them as firm favorites to top the group.

The COSAFA shootout is a straightforward affair or would have been in bygone eras. En route to the only AFCON Triumph, the Chipolopolo thrashed the Comoros 4-0 at home before winning 2-1 in the Islands.

But those days are long gone. The Chipolopolo will have to dig deep to win against the Island Nation this time around.

The Coelacanths have more recently been to the finals and qualified from a group that contained Ghana, Morocco, and Gabon. Perennial opponents Lesotho are no pushovers either, winning the last meeting between the two teams by 2 goals to 1.

However, all that is in the past now. The present is now, the calculator says that we should beat Comoros and Lesotho over both legs to ensure our qualification, and ensure we can get a minimum of 4 points from the 2023 hosts.

That will certainly keep qualification in our own hands. As we head to Yamoussoukro to kick off this exciting run, a win is on everyone’s minds and 3 points will go a long way to settling the nerves and starting off the campaign on the right foot.

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