Wednesday Apr 20, 2022. 09:11
Zambia are going to have to roll-up their sleeves to end their eight-year Africa Cup of Nations absence with just one place up for grabs in their Group H qualifying pool, a product of Tuesday’s draw for the 2023 tournament.
Chipolopolo has an appealing date against the team they beat in the 2012 finals, Cote d’Ivoire, but the bigger picture goes beyond that reunion.
Cote d’Ivoire’s Group H fixtures are all friendlies, as they are the hosts of 2023 AFCON, thus leaving Zambia, Comoros and Lesotho to battle it out in an all-COSAFA zone scrap for the lone ticket to Abidjan. One must either win Group H or finish second behind Cote d’Ivoire to qualify.
The qualifiers kickoff in over a months’ time with Matchday 1 and 2 fixtures to be played during the week of May 30-June 14.
Chipolopolo were last at the 2015 tournament in Equatorial Guinea, where they made a preliminary group stage exit. Since then the 2012 champions have failed to qualify for an unprecedented three consecutive AFCONs.
The groups for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in full:
Group A: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome e Principe or Mauritius.
Group B: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Togo, Eswatini.
Group C: Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Burundi.
Group D: Egypt, Guinea, Malawi, Ethiopia.
Group E: Ghana, Madagascar, Angola, Central African Republic.
Group F: Algeria, Uganda, Niger, Tanzania.
Group G: Mali, Congo, The Gambia ,South Sudan,
Group H: Ivory Coast (hosts), Zambia, Comoros, Lesotho.
Group I: DR Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Sudan.
Group J: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Botswana.
Group K: Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Liberia.
Group L: Senegal, Benin, Mozambique, Rwanda.