Zambia Under-23 battles to redeem the reputation of Zambian football when they face Nigeria in a 2015 All-Africa Games final round, final qualifier on Sunday in Abuja.
The first three months of 2015 has seen fortunes of the senior and junior teams in international competition plummet.
The senior, Under-20 and Under-17 teams were all were booted out of their respective tournaments in the preliminary stages after a lot of hype surrounding their qualifications.
And now, the much experienced Fighton Simukonda makes debut as Under-23 coach and dives straight into the deep end with a tough do-or-die date against Nigeria with an untested team that has had its challenges preparing for the qualifiers.
Simukonda, who led Zambia to 1998 victory at the Cosafa Cup and Zesco United to a historic first for the country with CAF Champions League group stage qualification in 2010, faces a big test over the next three weeks over two legs against Nigeria.
He knows winner over both legs will qualify to the finals to be held in Congo-Brazzaville this September.
Simukonda is also under pressure to guide Zambia to the All-Africa Games after the disastrous failure to qualify to the 2011 tournament under Lucky Msiska.
Prior to then, Zambia had qualified for the last four tournaments since 1995, reaching the final in 1999 under the late Ben Bamfuchile and finished fourth under Peter Kaumba in 2003 and 2007.
“We want to redeem the performance of other junior teams. Our preparations
are good and we are putting up a winning formula,” Zanaco defender and Zambia Under-23 vice captain Salulani Phiri said.
Goalkeepers:Toaster Nsabata (Nchanga Rangers), Kenny Mumba (Red Arrows)
Defenders- Boyd Mkandawire (Napsa Stars), Salulani Phiri (Zanaco), Chishimba Changala (Zesco United), Billy Mutale (Power Dynamos), Benard Mapili (Zesco United), , Kapota Kayawe (Nkana)
Midfielders- Larry Bwalya, Julius Situmbeko (Power Dynamos), Shadreck Malambo (Red Arrows), Nsofwa Mwansa (Kabwe Warriors), John Ching’andu (Zesco United), Spencer Sautu (Choma Eagles)
Strikers- Ronald Kampamba (Wadi Degla, Egypt), Patrick Ngoma (Red Arrows), Moses Phiri (Zanaco), Spencer Ngalande (Nchanga Rangers)