12 July 2018 12:10
Holders Zambia prepare for their defying moment in the qualifiers when they host Burundi in the final round first leg on Saturday, 14 July 2018 at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka.
Burundi have roared their way through the qualifiers unbeaten from the preliminary round last March with three wins and a draw to reach the last hurdle. The Burundians guided by Joslin Bipfubusa have two wins on the road, identical 2-0 results against Ethiopia and Sudan at the previous rounds, en route to their rendezvous with the 2017 winners.
But Young Chipolopolo coach Charles Bwale said Burundi are coming to their ‘citadel’ in Lusaka and must dig deep to maintain their unbeaten run in the qualifiers.
Zambia, who enjoyed a bye at the prelims, edged Rwanda 3-2 on aggregate at the First Round last May took set up a date with Burundi.
“Just like us, we haven't lost any game and we can safely say that when we played Rwanda, we drew at home and won away. We not afraid of Burundi and we will definitely qualify,” Bwale said.
Bwale's team has prepared for the decider with a diet of two high-profile junior international friendlies. Zambia lost 1-0 at home to Malawi on July 1 at Nkoloma and later drew 3-3 with South Africa seven days later at the same venue.
But Bwale said despite posting modest friendly results, Zambia are ready for Burundi.
“The objective of the Malawi game was to expose the new players that called up plus look at those that didn’t have game time against Rwanda and I think we achieved our objective in that match.
“But in the game against South Africa, I was impressed with the performance. I am happy with what I saw from the boys and maybe we have just had one or two patches to mend in training.”
The Zambia trainer also is set to unveil one new face in forward Kings Kangwa of Hapoel Be'er Sheva of Israel who is following in the footsteps of his brother and Chipolopolo striker Evans Kangwa.
Kangwa, who netted his debut goal in the draw against Amajita of South Africa, is expected to start alongside Francisco Mwepu who is chasing his third goal in the qualifiers and was also on target in the friendly against Amajita.
Meanwhile, the Israel-based attacker’s presence cushions the absence of England-based striker Mwiya Malumo who has been excused due to a contractual obligation following his recent released by Wigan.
There is also some good news for Bwale regarding Zesco United winger Lameck Banda who has been declared fit for the Burundi match after sustaining an injury in the friendly against South Africa.
Burundi and Zambia meet in the final leg at Ngozi on July 21 to decide who goes through to next February’s finals in Niger.
The winner will face either Burundi or Sudan for a place at the final tournament scheduled for 2-17 February 2019 in Niger.
Friday, 13 July 2018
Congo vs Senegal
Saturday, 14 July 2018
Mauritania vs Nigeria
Burkina Faso vs Gabon
Zambia vs Burundi
Cameroon vs Mali
Sunday, 15 July 2018
South Africa vs Malawi
*Ghana vs Benin (Postponed)