Sports Mole previews Friday’s World Cup Qualifying – Africa clash between Zambia and Congo, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Zambia and Congo get the action underway in Group E of the Africa Cup of Nations when they go head to head at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on Friday.
The Red Devils head into the weekend off the back of another disappointing Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign and will look to get their quest for a first World Cup appearance off on the right foot.
Zambia wrapped up their friendly schedule for the year on October 17 when they cruised to a resounding 3-0 victory over Uganda at the Al Hamriya Sports Club Stadium.
Leicester City man Patson Daka turned in a performance of the highest quality as he scored either side of Fashion Sakala‘s 63rd-minute strike to hand the Cranes their fourth defeat in five games.
With the victory over Uganda, Avram Grant‘s men have now gone unbeaten in six of their last seven matches across all competitions, a run which saw them clinch a record-extending seventh COSAFA Cup title in July.
Zambia also ended their six-year absence from the Africa Cup of Nations as they eased through the qualifiers, racking up 13 points from six matches to finish first in Group H, edging out runners-up Ivory Coast to the top spot on goal difference.
The 2012 AFCON champions now return home, where they have won each of their last four matches in the last two years, stretching back to a 1-1 draw against Equatorial Guinea in the World Cup qualifiers back in 2021.
Ranked 81st in the latest FIFA World Rankings, Zambia will look to continue their impressive run of results on home soil as they look to begin their quest for a maiden World Cup appearance in 2026 on a high.
The Chipolopolo came close in 2006, when they finished just four points behind Togo in Group 1 of the qualifiers, and in 2018 when they fell short in the third and final qualifying round, where they finished as runners-up to B winners Nigeria.
Another underwhelming qualifying campaign dashed Congo’s dreams of participating in the 2023 AFCON as they finished third in Group G, three points behind runners-up Gambia.
Congo, whose last appearance in the biannual tournament came back in 2015 when they reached the quarter-finals, managed just two wins in their six matches while picking up one draw and losing three.
The Red Devils head into Friday’s group opener off the back of a 2-2 draw against Gambia on September 10, a result which highlights their recent struggles as they threw away a two-goal lead in the final 11 minutes of the game.
They have failed to win five of their six matches across all competitions in 2023 — losing three and picking up two draws — a run which saw them crash out of the African Nations Championship in the group stages back in January.
While Congo will look to pick up a dream start to their quest for a first World Cup appearance, Friday’s game pits them against a Zambia side who ate unbeaten in 13 of their last 14 encounters, claiming eight wins and five draws since March 1974.
Zambia form (all competitions):
Congo form (all competitions):
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Grant have called up 25 players for the qualifying games against Congo and Niger, with the 68-year-old retaining the majority of the players that secured Zambia’s spot in the 2023 AFCON.
Daka headlines the Chipolopolo attacking unit, alongside 26-year-old Sakala and Lecce striker Lameck Banda, while Brian Mwila returns to the squad after a two-year absence.
Mwila has been in fine form in the Zambian top-flight, scoring four goals in three matches for Zanaco, while Ayr United’s Frankie Musonda and 27-year-old Kelvin Kapumbu miss out through injuries.
Congo have named a 21-man squad for their opening two games in the qualifiers, including the likes of Prestige Mboungou, 33-year-old Wolfrigon Mongondza and Cagliari midfielder Antoine Makoumbou.
Young Boys striker Ganvoula, who has four goals in 15 senior caps since his debut in June 2014 and should lead the Red Devils’ attack, while Antoine Makoumbou and Boavista’s Gaius Makouta should team up at the centre of the park.
Sochaux defender Christ Makosso is one of four new faces in the Congo squad, alongside Alain Ipiele, Christopher Ibayi and 20-year-old goalkeeper Melvin Douniama.
Zambia possible starting lineup:
Mulenga; Kabwe, Kanguluma, Sunzu, Chepeshi; Bwalya, Kangwa, Kampamba; Daka, Banda, Mwila
Congo possible starting lineup:
Mongondza; Poaty, Dembi, Ondongo, Andzouana; Ndockyt, Makoumbou, Makouta, Mboungou; Ganvoula, Bassouamina
We say: Zambia 2-0 Congo
Zambia will be licking their lips as they go up against a Congo side who have managed just one win in six since the turn of the year. The Chipolopolo have been rock-solid on home soil over the last two years and we fancy them claiming a comfortable opening-day victory on Thursday.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.