ZAMBIA has been handed a tricky route to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Morocco after drawing 2013 surprise package, the Cape Verde Islands in Group F of the qualifiers. Also in the group is Niger, who will be seeking a third appearance at the AFCON finals after qualifying to the last two editions.
The journey to Morocco for the Chipolopolo will begin on September 6 this year when Patrice Beaumelle’s men will face the winner of the Tanzania versus Zimbabwe and Mozambique versus South Sudan fixtures. The four nations will be involved in the second and third round of qualifiers with the eventual winner reaching the group phase.
Zambia will then travel to Praia to face Cape Verde on September 10 in the second Group F fixture at Estadio da Varzea. The Chipolopolo will next face the Menas of Niger away on either October 10 or 11 at Stade Seyni Kountche.
Niger will be Zambia’s first guests in the reverse fixtures which start on October 15. The winner of the Tanzania versus Zimbabwe and Mozambique versus South Sudan fixtures will then host the Chipolopolo on either November 14 or 15.
Zambia will wrap up their quest for a place in Morocco with a potentially decisive fixture against Cape Verde’s Blue Sharks at home on November 19.
Cape Verde is the highest ranked team in Group F on the latest FIFA Coca-Cola World ratings – fifth in Africa and 42nd globally – while Zambia is rated 16th on the continent with Niger is ranked 28 in Africa and 102 in the world. The group winners and runners-up will qualify to the 30th edition of the AFCON finals which will run from January 17 to February 8 next year. Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president, Kalusha Bwalya, who attended the draws, described the group as tough especially that in modern football in Africa every team was a tough opponent. Kalusha, however, said the Chipolopolo would be ready for the challenge and would give it their best shot. ”It is a tough draw and in today’s football especially on our African continent everybody is a tough opponent. Niger is a strong side that we have played against in a number of years and we all saw what Cape Verde did at the AFCON finals last year in South Africa. They were the surprise team, so they will still be competitive.
“And to add to the twist and toughness of it all, the winner from the second round could be one of our neighbours, Mozambique, Tanzania or Zimbabwe and it’s never easy as these are derby games, so you can see why I say it’s a tough draw but Zambia is always ready for a challenge and will give it a good go,” Kalusha told the CAFonline after the draws.
Cape Verde were the reason why African football giants, Cameroon failed to qualify to the 2013 AFCON finals in South Africa where the Indian Ocean islanders went on to reach the quarter-finals.
The team almost qualified to the 2014 World Cup finals but were docked three points by FIFA for fielding an ineligible player against Tunisia.
Full 2015 AFCON qualifying draws:
Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Winner of Match 37/38
Mali, Algeria, Ethiopia, Winner of Match 43/44
Burkina Faso, Angola, Gabon, Winner of Match 33/34
Ivory Coast, Cameroon, DR Congo, Winner Match 41/42
Ghana, Togo, Guinea, Winner Match 35/36
Zambia, Cape Verde, Niger, Winner Match 45/46
Tunisia, Egypt, Senegal, Winner Match 39/40