Thursday Nov 16, 2023. 12:06
Zambia head coach Avram Grant insists their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign will be a marathon not a sprint as they prepare to face Congo at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Friday.
Kick-off is at 6pm CAT (SA, GMT+2).
The Copper Bullets will contest top spot in Group E with Morocco to qualify automatically for the global showpiece, while they will also face Tanzania and Niger.
But they will only play eight matches in the qualifiers after Eritrea withdrew earlier this month due to financial constraints.
Grant guided Chipolopolo to the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations and has lost just two of his opening seven games at the helm since taking charge in December 2022.
The Israeli tactician will be without a few key players as Ayr United defender Frankie Musonda, TP Mazembe defender Kelvin Kapumbu and Qingdao Hainiu winger Evans Kangwa are all missing through injury.
But Grant is hoping to make home advantage count against the Red Devils, although he insists their journey will be long and that nothing will be decided after the first game, whether they win or lose.
“We qualified to Africa [Cup of Nations] so now we have the other assignment [which] is the World Cup. We are in a very, very tough group, only one team will qualify but as I promised in the beginning we will do our best,” he said.
“Nothing will be decided in the first game, not if we win or we don’t win. It will be a long journey, Normally it’s 10 games but now we have eight games.
“No team will win all their games, I can assure you, not even us, not even Morocco. So with the journey we need to show good football, good mentality, winning mentality and of course our target is to win every game.
“We will do everything to start [good] at home but it will not finish there. We need to be strong for all the games.”
Congo failed to make it to AFCON 2023 after they finished third in Group G of qualifying, with a 2-0 defeat to Mali on matchday 5 sealing their fate.
The Central Africans have won just one of their six matches in 2023 and didn’t play during the October international window, while they lost head coach Paul Put to Uganda earlier this month.