Saturday Jun 17, 2023. 11:00
Saturday’s action in the qualifiers for the next Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) will be headlined by Zambia and Equatorial Guinea looking to seal tickets to the finals in the Ivory Coast next year.
Zambia will battle the already-qualified hosts in an afternoon Group H match in Ndola, knowing that a draw or better against the Elephants will guarantee a top-two spot and see Chipolopolo return to the AFCON for the first time since 2015.
Zambia coach Avram Grant says he is working on beefing up the national team’s technical resources – and wants to see the quality of pitches improve.
“I think in every organisation you look at you are always working on improving. We are working on some areas that we can improve with the association,” said the Israeli tactician.
“I have some contact in England with some people who can share knowledge with the coaches and other staff members. Staff is very important now in football… good assistant coaches, good physical trainer, video analyst, etc.
“The pitches need to be better, it will help players play better, less direct football, which honestly I did not like. I don’t think it is the nature of Zambians, the nature is to play football.”
Group H will also feature already-eliminated Lesotho hosting Comoros at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg – with the Coelacanths’ hopes of staying alive resting on Ivory Coast winning in Zambia.
The afternoon also sees Angola chasing a win against Central African Republic in Douala to stay alive in Group E, while the early evening is headlined by Equatorial Guinea’s home match against Group J rivals Tunisia.
The Carthage Eagles have already secured a ticket to the AFCON and Nzalang Nacional need only avoid defeat in Malabo to join the North Africans in the tournament – which would render the other Group J game between Botswana and Libya, kicking off an hour later, redundant.
Group K features a meeting of South Africa and Morocco at the FNB Stadium (which will be useful tournament practice given that both teams have already booked their spot at the AFCON) before a Group L match between reigning champions Senegal and Benin in Cotonou wraps up Saturday’s action.
The Teranga Lions boast a 100 percent record in the group and have already guaranteed top spot, but the newly-branded Cheetahs need a home win to keep alive their hopes of returning to the continental finals for the first time since 2019.
AFCON qualifying fixtures, Saturday 17 June
All times CAT
15:00: Central African Republic v Angola
15:00: Zambia v Ivory Coast
16:00: Lesotho v Comoros
17:00: Equatorial Guinea v Tunisia
17:00: South Africa v Morocco
18:00: Botswana v Libya
21:00: Benin v Senegal