Tuesday Apr 19, 2022. 08:21
Zambia are about to know their route to the Cote d’Ivoire 2023 AFCON when the tournament’s group stage qualifying draws are made on April 19 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Tuesday’s draw will reveal Zambia’s path in their long quest to end an eight-year AFCON absence that has seen the 2012 champions miss an unprecedented three successive finals since making a preliminary round exit at Equatorial Guinea 2015.
Chipolopolo head into the draws in Pot 2 where Aljosa Asanovic’s team will avoid Benin and Congo-Brazzaville, who are seeded in the same bowl and were both Zambia’s friendly opponents in the just-ended March FIFA International Window.
Other Pot 2 teams include Equatorial Guinea against, who recorded a 2-0 home win over Chipolopolo 2-0 and drew 1-1 in Lusaka in the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup Group B qualifiers.
Zambia will also avoid Cape Verde, who gave them a very rough time their 2015 AFCON qualifiers that saw the Islanders win 2-1 at home but lose 1-0 away in Ndola, and the two sides later drew 0-0 at the Equatorial Guinea tournament.
South Africa, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Uganda together with Kenya complete Pot 2. But Kenya and Pot 3 team Zimbabwe, who are both serving FIFA bans, must resolve their status a fortnight before the qualifiers kickoff on May 30 or forfeit their group stage fixtures as losses.
Meanwhile, Pot 1 where all the twelve top ranked sides are, including holders Senegal, means Chipolopolo have a potential trip to either West or North Africa.
But Chipolopolo might get lucky with a short trip to northern neighbours DR Congo, who are the only Pot 1 team outside the Western and Northern zones.
The other Pot 1 heavyweights are Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Morocco.
Meanwhile, Chipolopolo’s 2022 Qatar qualifiers opponents Mauritania are in Pot 3 together with Libya, Gambia, Togo, Guinea Bissau and Niger.
But Zambia could get a COSAFA derby from Pot 3 against Malawi, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Comoros or Zimbabwe.
Pot 4 has a strong CECAFA Zone flavour, led by Tanzania, Sudan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Burundi. Chipolopolo also have potential debut trip to Central Africa Republic or Sao Tome e Principle if the football gods decide on that, while Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana and Liberia complete Pot 4.