FAZ president Kalusha Bwalya says Zambia’s opponents in the Group E of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) qualifiers are tough nuts to crack.
Zambia was yesterday drawn in Group E with Congo, Kenya and Guinea Bissau while Gabon won the hosting slot for 2017.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Bwalya said all the opponents have made major strides in the past years hence each game will be crucial.
“It is a tough draw especially that we will start this year and finish next year. All the opponents have improved significantly in the past few years. Football has changed and no country is an underdog. We have to be alert not to be surprised,” he said.
He said the team has an obligation to qualify to the AfCON and maintain the record.
“Our qualification to the AfCON will be important especially with the 2018 World Cup on the horizon. This time we have to qualify without any mathematics involved,” he said.
Zambia last clashed with Congo in the 2008 AfCON qualifiers where Zambia beat Congo 3-0 at home and drew 0-0 away while the Chipolopolo have beaten Kenya 1-0 home and away in the 2000 AfCON qualifiers.
The group winners and two best second placed teams join hosts Gabon for finals in 2017.
Winners of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations will represent the continent at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Meanwhile, Gabon emerged as the host country for Africa’s biggest showpiece in 2017 after beating competition from Algeria and Ghana.
Cameroon will host the AfCON in 2019 as Ivory Coast got the 2021 while the 2023 will be held in Guinea.
AfCON 2017 qualifying draws are; Group A – Tunisia, Togo, Liberia, Djibouti
Group B -DRC, Angola, Central African Republic Madagascar
Group C – Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Group D – Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Group E – Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Group F – Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Group G – Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Group H – Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Group I – Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Group J – Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Group K – Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi
Group L – Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Group M – Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia, Mauritania