It is D-day for defending U20 AFCON champions Zambia on Sunday when they face Burundi in their deciding 2019 final round qualifier at Ngozi.
Leading 1-0 from the first leg at home in Lusaka at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka on July 14, Zambia just need a draw to qualify to the Niger finals next February.
Zambia won the 2017 title without qualifying for it as hosts and now new coach Charles Bwale has been handed the unenviable job of navigating the teams tough qualifying run that began away in the second round in May with a 2-0 win in Rwanda on May 11 in Kigali before drawing 1-1 in Lusaka on May 19.
This is after enjoying a first round bye from April’s preliminary round qualifiers thanks to their exploits in March, 2017.
And now, the tough job on the final hurdle saw Zambia scarp through the first leg with a 1-0 home win on July 14.
Sadly, the scorer of that goal, Zesco United striker Lameck Banda, is not in Bujumbura for Sunday’s D-Day date.
Banda received a second yellow card in the first leg following his over -celebrations in the aftermath of his 86th minute goal that gave Zambia the advantage.
And so, striker Francisco Mwepu who has scored two goals in the qualifiers, and four in the total if you include the official friendly games the team played, is the man Zambia will place the burden for goals in a draw or win away this weekend on the last stretch on the road to Niamey.
Meanwhile, Coach Charles Bwale believes his charges are a more confident structure in the qualifiers away from the high pressure demands at home.
“What is important is to qualify to the Africa Cup finals. The boys play well when they are away as compared to the pressure they have when they are at home,” Bwale said.
“We are confident we will have the job done in Burundi.”