Zambia are starting the battle to revive their 2021 qualifying Africa tournament when they host Botswana in a must-win Group H match on November 12 at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
The 2012 AFCON champions are on zero points on the third day of Group H, the visitors Botswana are third on 1 point, while Zimbabwe and Algeria have 4 and 6 points respectively.
Chipolopolo’s status follows successive defeats exactly a year ago, starting with a humble 5-0 away loss to Algeria, followed by a 2-1 defeat to Zimbabwe. These two results produced early ripples about the prospect of Zambia not qualifying for a third consecutive AFCON.
A new man has been appointed to carry out the salvage work in the form of former Zamalek, Orlando Pirates and Uganda coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic, replacing interim coach Aggrey Chiyangi.
“With zero points, one goal scored and seven conceded, we are now on a face-saving mission against Botswana,” said Micho. “So we will do it with total focus, total possible attention to theoretical awareness, be fit, technically effective and tactically competitive so that we achieve the desired result on 12 November.”
The match will also be Micho’s competitive debut after the COVID-19 pandemic took place in March’s previous Group H double-headed date against Botswana and the CHAN 2020 outing was rescheduled for April.
Micho has since enjoyed just a diet of friendly matches that has won five and lost one of his six matches in charge.
Micho will enter the match without striker Patson Daka of Austrian RB Salzburg due to an injury he sustained in the UEFA Champions League. But Daka’s club mate and influential midfielder Enock Mwepu is available along with striker Fashion Sakala from Belgian KV Ostend.
Chipolopolo will also start life in a transition phase without veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, including captain and TP Mazembe defender Kabaso Chongo, while Micho begins his regeneration process amid the face-saving mission.
Sebastian Mwange of Maritzburg United, who was one of Mweene’s undergraduates, is expected to get the number one shirt in the next two qualifying matches against Botswana.
Micho also recalled striker Justin Shonga and midfielder Augustine Mulenga, who he left out of his October friendly ties for technical reasons, after the duo had a difficult season at their former club Orlando Pirates.
Meanwhile, Chipolopolo and Botswana complete their Group H double-headed on November 19 in Francistown.