VICTOR KUMWENDA, Constantine, Algeria
AFTER an emphatic 3-1victory over Algeria, Zambia must replicate the same feat to keep alive the 2018 Russia World Cup qualification dream when the teams clash tonight at Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium.
The match could be Algeria coach Lucas Alcaraz’s last as the Spaniard has been handed an ultimatum to beat Zambia.
The Algerian Football Federation has described the team’s performance in Lusaka as unacceptable and shocking.
Zambia stunned Algeria 3-1 at National Heroes Stadium courtesy of striker Brian Mwila’s brace and midfielder Enock Mwepu’s grass-cutter.
The Chipolopolo have four points while Algeria are bottom of Group B with a point.
Leaders Nigeria tackled Cameroon last night.
But Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda believes Algeria are wounded and has implored his players to forget the victory in Lusaka and remain focused if they are to achieve a rare feat of winning in North Africa.
“We beat them [Algeria] but make no mistake they still remain among the best teams in Africa. They are wounded after losing two games in a row but for us what is important is to remain focused and collect maximum points from the remaining three games and not worry about results elsewhere,” said Nyirenda in an interview on Sunday evening.
Nyirenda will rely on goal-poacher Brian Mwila and Patson Daka for goals.
Mwila netted a brace on Saturday and will hold the key to success tonight.
“I am looking forward to scoring in Algeria,” Mwila said.
Daka harassed Algerian defenders in Lusaka and Nyirenda will give him another run.
Alex Ng’onga and Justin Shonga are other options for goals.
Nyirenda will miss striker Fashion Sakala, who is suspended.
Play-maker Mwepu is expected to be unleashed in midfield alongside Augustine Mulenga, Kondwani Mtonga and Chisamba Lungu.
Nyirenda will use the same rearguard of Simon Silwimba, Fackson Kapumbu, Stopilla Sunzu and Ziyo Tembo.
The Sunzu-marshalled defence was at sixes and sevens in the first leg and need to improve to keep goal-poacher Islam Slimani and midfielder Yacine Brahim, who scored a consolation in Lusaka, at bay.
Skipper Kennedy Mweene will be in goal.
Alcaraz is hoping for victory to restore the North Africans’ pride.
“We know what to do because my players need no reminding of the importance of winning the match. I know people will say the team lost in Zambia but it is important to preserve our home record and we want to keep that record,” Alcaraz told the local media.
Algeria are likely to be without influential midfielder Riyad Mahrez.
The Leicester City star missed the first leg because he wanted to sort out his future with the English Premier League side.
“Riyad Mahrez is a big name in Algeria, so there is need to be cautious when dealing with his issues,” the Spaniard said.
The match will kick off at 21:30 hours.