Zambia coach Wedson Nyirenda has insisted his team will not give up their hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup after 3-1 home win against Algeria, saying their game in Nigeria next month is still very much open.
The win against the North Africans has now catapulted them to second in the standings with four points, five points adrift of leaders Nigeria.
They will do their qualification chances a world of good again should they shock the Algerians in Constantine on Tuesday night, while also hoping that Nigeria do not win in Cameroon on Monday.
“It was not an easy game for us (vs Algeria in Lusaka) because we had a new team with just a few days to prepare,” admitted the Zambia coach.
“It was a team of senior players, local senior players and the U20 players. The challenge was to put together a team who will play with a little bit of cohesion and co-ordination.
“But all in all, our main aim was to get the three points, which we have achieved so that we stay in race.
“We can’t forget our hopes. Not many gave us a chance against a major force like Algeria, a very big thorn in our flesh.
“Football is football. Who knows what will happen in Nigeria in the next two games?
“We will remain focused and take it a game at a time and see what happens.”
Nigeria beat The Chipolopolo in October 2016 and when both teams square up again a year later in Uyo, the Zambians will be lining up almost a new team who have been re-energised with the inclusion of several players from the country’s team to the recent FIFA U20 World Cup in South Korea.
Out of the team is striker Collins Mbesuma, who scored a consolation goal against Nigeria last year in Ndola, Nathan Sinkala and Lubambo Musonda.
In are several of the outstanding U20 stars.
Enock Mwepu ‘Computer’, 19, who has moved to Red Bull Salzburg, came off the bench to score a crucial third goal a minute to full time just as Algeria were pressing for an equaliser.
Patson Daka and Fashion Sinkala also shone at the U20 World Cup and proved their class after they started against Algeria today.
“The boys are very good, we threw them into the deep end of the sea and they fought. I commend them,” saluted Nyirenda.
Zambia also have a new goals machine – Brian Mwila, who scored a double in the first half against Algeria and could have notched a hat-trick on his debut but for the post, which saved his powerful header also in the first half with the goalkeeper well beaten.
The Platinum Stars of South Africa striker will pose a lot more danger when up against a defence led by Leon Balogun next month.