CHIPOLOPOLO this evening take on defending African champions Algeria in a 2021 AfCON Group H opening qualifier match away in Blida in what will be Aggrey Chiyangi’s biggest test as Chipolopolo interim coach.
Chiyangi is unbeaten in his last 10 games in charge since he was handed the job on an interim capacity last March after Sven Vandenbroeck’s nine-month reign ended.
Despite collecting four wins and six draws, Algeria will be the biggest top 10 African side Chiyangi will face in his nine months at the helm of the Chipolopolo.
Furthermore, Zambia face Algeria for the first time since September 5, 2017 when Chipolopolo completed a historic double over the North Africans winning 3-1 in Lusaka plus a debut away 1-0 victory in Constantine in a 2018 World Cup Group B qualifying fixture with Wedson Nyirenda as coach.
Defender Kabaso Chongo, who was appointed captain by Chiyangi in his first game in charge nine months ago, said they were under no illusions what awaits them at Algeria’s fortress in Blida.
“It is possible to hold them again if we work together as a unit. Football is dynamic, anything can happen,” Kabaso said.
Chiyangi’s bench has been boosted by the appointment of experienced George Lwandamina as technical advisor.
Lwandamina said failing to qualify to two previous Africa cup finals was motivation enough for Zambia to start on a brighter note against the defending champions.
“Algeria are current African champions but as you know we have missed two editions already and that is the major objective we have and the boys know they just have to do it. The first step is the greatest step in every journey,” Lwandamina said of the match.
Pressure is back on the senior Chipolopolo after their U-23 counterparts’ 2020 Olympic hopes were dented following a 3-1 loss to Nigeria in the U-23 AFCON tournament Group B match in Cairo.
In the absence of Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka who were key in the demolition of Algeria in 2017, Chiyangi still has ample firepower at his disposal in Blida led by Justin Shongo and Lazarus Kambole who are a different disposition at Chipolopolo despite their enigmatic form at Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates respectively.
All eyes will be on in-form Russia-based striker Evans Kangwa who is returning to the national team since he played at the 2015 AfCON in Equatorial Guinea when Honour Janza was coach.
Chipolopolo also face Algeria for the first time without veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene who has not received a call-up under Chiyangi.
The unenviable job of keeping a clean sheet against the African champions is likely to fall on Zanaco’s Toaster Nsabata or South African based Cyril Chibwe.
The match will kick-off at 21:00 hours Zambian time with Chipolopolo expected to fly back immediately after the match as they have to regroup in readiness for another crunch match against Zimbabwe on Tuesday at Heroes Stadium.