Zambia Chipolopolo arrive at the point of no return on March 25, when they host defending Total Africa Cup of Nations champions Algeria in the penultimate Group H qualifier at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.

Thursday evening’s game will decide the 2012 winners’ hopes in reaching next year’s Total Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021, as they currently are rock bottom of Group H on three points after winning just one match and losing three of their group fixtures.

Zambia is one point behind third placed Botswana, Zimbabwe are second on 5 points while guests Algeria have 10 points and sealed their qualification with two games to spare.

With that scenario, Chipolopolo is facing the unenviable prospect of missing out on an unprecedented third successive AFCON.

But striker Patson Daka of Austrian champions RB Salzburg remains optimistic over the prospect of mounting a dramatic last-minute dash for a top two finish in Group H.

“Without pressure I don’t think we can achieve anything. We need the pressure so that we can reach our target and I think we put ourselves in this position, so it is only us who can get ourselves out of it,” Daka said.

“It can only be done by working hard and this is exactly what we are going to do. We have a 100 percent chance of making it because we have two games to play and we need victories in both matches, that is what we want to achieve.

“We know that it is a do-or-die game and we have to make sure that we focus on Algeria right now because it is the first challenge that we have and then we will look at the next challenge. So, we will first deal with the Algeria game and then see what happens,” he added.

Daka knows the team must redeem themselves especially against Algeria following a humbling 5-0 away defeat to the defending African Champions in Blida in November 2019.

Five days later, Zambia again collapsed at home, losing to Zimbabwe 2-1 in Lusaka.

Those two dates were also Daka’s last Zambia appearances, together with four other players who are also back to the team. The other returnees from sixteen months ago are midfielder Clatus Chama of Tanzania’s Simba, 2012 AFCON winner Nathan Sinkala of South Africa’s Stellenbosch FC, TP Mazembe defender Kabaso Chongo, and Polokwane City goalkeeper Cyril Chibwe.

The burden of expectations on them to lead by example is high, with another salvage mission awaiting them in Harare next Monday.

Another player back after a three-year hiatus is striker Brian Mwila, who was one of the key players in Zambia’s famous win over Algeria in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Mwila scored a brace in Chipolopolo’s 3-1 home win over Algeria.

However, Zambia have injury setbacks with strikers Justin Shonga of South Africa’s Cape Town and Fashion Sakala from Belgium side KV Oostende both ruled out.

Furthermore, Tandi Mwape of Mazembe and Power Dynamos left-back Zachariah Chilongoshi will miss the game due to suspension.

Source: CAF