By MICHAEL MIYOBA
ZAMBIA’s quest to progress to the knockout stage of the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations will face another tough test today when the Chipolopolo take on pre-tournament favourites and 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco in their final Group F fixture.
The match scheduled for Stade Laurent Pokou in San Pedro, Ivory Coast promises sparks as both Zambia and Morocco will fight for a win to increase their chances of qualifying for the knockout stage.
After two consecutive draws against Tanzania and Congo DR in the first two matches, Zambia, are winless at the AFCON since winning the final in 2012 will fight to defy the odds as the underdogs against Morocco.
The Atlas Lions, who started the competition with an exciting 3-0 win over Tanzania will also be seeking to bounce back to winning ways to recover from the stalemate against Congo DR in their previous match.
Despite Zambia being the underdogs going into today’s match, Coach Avram Grant is not intimidated as he believes in the Chipolopolo boys.
“We already know that Morocco is a big team on paper but we are not afraid of them. We will play them and I hope we will put up a good performance. We will have to show character,” Grant said.
“I think you saw the second half character we showed against Tanzania, and we have to show the same character in the last game,” the 2015 finalist with the Black Stars of Ghana said.
Zambia will fight to end Morocco’s dominance after managing only one win in the last eight games against the Atlas Lions who emerged winners with a 3-1 score line when the two sides faced off at the CHAN tournament in 2019.
With Rodrick Kabwe ruled out after picking a red card against Tanzania, Captain Lubambo Musonda is expected to return in the starting 11 where he is likely to partner with Stopila Sunzu, Frankie Musonda and Benedict Chepeshi in defence while Lawrence Mulenga is expected to start in goal.
Grant is likely to make changes in midfielder with young Miguel Chaiwe expected to partner with Emmanuel Banda and Cletus Chama after the duo impressed against Tanzania.
Upfront, Patson Daka and Lameck Banda are guaranteed to start alongside Fashion Sakala or Kennedy Musonda.
Meanwhile, Walid Regragui’s side face Zambia without Noussair Mazraoui, the Bayern Munich defender who is still sidelined with a lingering thigh problem.
A win for Morocco will earn them direct qualification to the knockout stages as Group F winners while Zambia will fight to avoid defeat to be able to make it to the next round of the competition as one of the best losers.