When Sven Vandenbroeck was appointed Zambia coach in July, he should have been quietly assured that it was a super time to be taking up the Chipolopolo.
Admittedly, they misplaced their opening Africa Cup of Nations qualifier towards Mozambique in 2017 – however the Belgian may have seen many positives following the tenure of Wedson Nyirenda.
His predecessor took Zambia to the ultimate of the COSAFA Cup earlier this yr, they usually initially impressed within the African Nations Championship – at the very least till shedding their method towards Sudan within the quarter last.
Most notably, nonetheless, Nyirenda oversaw the World Cup 2018 qualifying marketing campaign – one which provided nice hope for the way forward for Zambian soccer.
Chipolopolo might not have made it to Russia, however Nyirenda efficiently built-in a swathe of proficient younger gamers to the fold, and took seven factors from their final 4 fixtures.
Considerably, they beat Algeria – admittedly a Fennecs aspect in self-destruction mode – dwelling and away, and demonstrated their character in a 2-2 draw with Cameroon.
Because the World Cup qualifying marketing campaign got here to an finish, there was real hope that Zambia might be getting ready to a brand new golden period.
Then Nyirenda was dismissed – the deserves of the choice had been mentioned right here – and Vandenbroeck was appointed, largely on the again of his achievements as Hugo Broos’s assistant with Cameroon.
Success – or at the very least progress – should not be too exhausting to return by. Vandenbroeck, absolutely, simply must construct on Nyirenda’s good work, proceed the staff’s upward trajectory, and develop into a bit extra medical within the enterprise finish of competitions
His tenure started with a low-key 1-1 draw towards Namibia over the past worldwide break – new footwear all the time pinch at first – however picked up his first win as Guinea-Bissau had been dispatched 2-1 on Wednesday.
It wasn’t essentially the most ominous of foe, and it wasn’t essentially the most convincing of victories – even when Zambia had been 2-Zero up after 52 minutes – however it was a win, and sufficient to take the Chipolopolo second in Group Ok…at the very least till Mozambique host Namibia on Saturday.
Most intriguing about Vandenbroeck’s tenure to this point, is how he is opted to take the staff in one thing of a unique path to that which his predecessor employed.
Key components stay the identical, Kennedy Mweene – whose depressing error towards the Bissau-Guineans considerably tarnished Wednesday’s triumph – retains his spot, whereas Stoppila Sunzu continues within the coronary heart of the defence.
Past that, nonetheless, Vandenbroeck has opted to put off a number of of the constant components of these wonderful Zambian outcomes throughout World Cup qualifying.
Left-back Fackson Kapumbu and centre-back Ziyo Tembo performed each minute of the double-header towards Algeria and the draw with Cameroon, however neither have performed a minute below the brand new man. The veteran Tembo – CHAN captain – wasn’t named within the squad for the AFCON qualifier.
Adrian Chama and Donashano Malama, who each performed towards the Indomitable Lions, had been neglected fully as nicely, whereas the likes of Ernest Mbewe, Alex Ngonga and Emmanuel Banda have additionally been reduce.
Patson Daka and Brian Mwila netted 5 between them within the Algeria and Cameroon video games, but the primary solely managed a cameo look towards Guinea-Bissau whereas The Hammer was neglected fully regardless of scoring twice for Altach on the weekend.
The duo, at 20 and 24, nonetheless absolutely have huge futures with Zambia, however it’s a daring transfer by Vandenbroeck to have opted to cut back their prominence inside the aspect throughout these early days of his tenure.
Elsewhere, Augustine Mulenga and Enock Mwepu have retained the first-team berths they loved below Nyirenda, however the remainder of the staff that began towards Guinea-Bissau consists of gamers discarded by Nyirenda.
Lawrence Chungu and the improved Kabaso Chongo have wrested the full-back positions from Kapumbu, Chama and Simon Silwimba, whereas 2012 AFCON winners Nathan Sinkala and Rainford Kalaba have been recalled.
Solomon Sakala, Cletus Chama and Lubambo Musonda are the opposite gamers introduced in from the worldwide wilderness or promoted from squad roles by Vandenbroeck, with the Belgian leaning in direction of revolution fairly than evolution.
“I feel the entire FA and lots of people across the staff are completely happy that every little thing is restarting from zero, as a result of these gamers [the exiles] actually have qualities,” he informed journalists final month, as per BBC Sport.
“There are rumours about what occurred previously. I say that I can not decide that. They’ve to make sure that it would not happen once more.”
The final of this trio, particularly, is justifying his return to the fold, and caught the attention towards Guinea-Bissau together with his intelligence in possession, his motion off the ball and his very good footwork.
Whereas Vandenbroeck has discarded lots of the squad’s older gamers – Malama, Kapumbu, Tembo, Adrian Chama, Kondwani Mtonga and Chisamba Lungu amongst others – the returning Cletus Chama justified his return with a mature show.
The versatile midfielder struggled outdoors Zambia with Ittihad Alexandria, however served a reminder of the composure he gives in possession. He’ll absolutely be an excellent affect on wonderkid Mwepu transferring ahead, and has the technical prowess to get the perfect out of the opposite younger forwards on the sector.
That attacking line is the place the real optimism in Zambia’s future must lie.
Shonga could also be struggling at Orlando Pirates, however he has 10 targets in his final 14 worldwide outings, and there is not one other continental ahead who’s in higher kind for his nationwide aspect throughout that interval.
The 21-year-old finishes calmly, whereas his motion off the ball ensures he is a continuing menace for opposition centre-backs.
Lazarous Kambole was left on the bench on Wednesday, however he has six targets in his final 10 video games in all competitions for the nationwide aspect, and the potential of his link-up with Shonga is mouth-watering for Zambia followers.
Cultivating this partnership – and creating the promise of Daka and Mwepu – are the upcoming challenges for Vandenbroeck.
He is not executing his transient fairly as anticipated to date, however the Belgian has at the very least restored the concept that Zambia are primed for an additional spell close to the top of the African sport.