Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
IT IS a match for the strong, and the faint-hearted should be nowhere near National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Saturday, when Zambia face Algeria in a must-win 2018 Russia World Cup qualifier.
The North Africans have world-class stars in strikers Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani, who both feature for Leicester City, the 2015-16 English champions.
Mahrez scored 17 goals as Leicester won the title with his exploits earning him the Professional Footballers players’ player-of-the-year award in England in April 2016 and the African player-of-the-year award.
Although not at his best right now as compared to the time Leicester won the title, he can still be devastating on his day.
It is not a secret that Algeria are favourites to win the back-to-back matches in Lusaka and the return leg in Constantine.
This is a team Zambia has overcome only twice in 12 meetings.
The teams first met in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on June 12, 1977 and Algeria won 2-0 in Algiers.
Two weeks later, Zambia beat the Desert Foxes by a similar margin in a return leg in Lusaka.
Zambia’s other win was a 2-0 victory at the Africa Cup of Nations in Libya on March 18, 1982, when it finished third.
The record stands at seven wins for Algeria, two for Zambia while three matches have ended in draws.
But football is a fun odd game full of surprises and Zambia could just surprise Algeria and the world at large by collecting six points over two legs.
Skipper Kennedy Mweene and all the Chipolopolo players should embrace self-belief as they prepare for the clash with the North Africans.
It will not be easy but with self-belief, they could stun the star-studded Algerian side.
There is nothing impossible in all spheres of life.
Mweene, defender Stopilla Sunzu and midfielder Chisamba Lungu are all 2012 Africa Cup winners and they should inspire the youngsters such as Enock Mwepu, Emmanuel Banda, Fashion Sakala, Patson Daka and Edward Chilufya to believe in their abilities.
With the 60,000 crowd singing and beating drums in the terraces, Algeria can fall.
The introduction of the under-20 stars in the Chipolopolo cannot come at the right time as now.
I am sure the stadium will be full to capacity as fans will be eager to see the magic touch of the under-20 players who won the Africa Cup of Nations staged in Zambia in March this year and two months later reached the quarter-finals at the FIFA World Cup in South Korea.
The youngsters are associated with the ‘bola na Lesa’ [football with God] slogan and this could see Zambia getting a famous win over Algeria.
I am also calling on fans to be disciplined before, during and after the match so that Zambia does not attract FIFA sanctions.
Good luck to the Chipolopolo and may God bless Zambia.
Sport – Zambia Daily Mail