By Peter Kanjere
Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant proved his worth after securing Zambia a comprehensive 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on Saturday afternoon and with it, a seat with the continent’s finest at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
Grant, whose last job in Africa saw him take Ghana to Afcon final, has proved to be the cure the medicine man ordered for Chipolopolo who had last qualified for Afcon finals three editions ago in 2015.
However, back-to-back 3-1 and 2-0 wins over Lesotho when Grant took over the reigns left the 2012 Afcon champions needing just a point going into Saturday’s Group H encounter at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The result saw Chipolopolo leading the group on 12 points, two ahead of the already qualified hosts Elephants each with an academic game to go.
Zambia had a dream start to the game even though they hardly attempted a shot on target in the early stages of the game.
It took Nottingham Forest defender Sergie Aurier’s own goal to gift the hosts the lead as they went to break at 1-0.
Zambia did not take long to cushion their lead at dawn of the second half as Leicester City striker Patson Daka proved that he is a different animal in the national team colours.
Daka scored Zambia’s second goal to send the packed stadium to the moon in euphoria.
Hopes of Ivory Coast’s fight- back vanished when midfielder Kings Kangwa proved that he is not just a king in creative play but also in scoring with the third insurance strike.
Grant usually hardly smiles but after this goal the Israeli could be forgiven for going against his own demenour.
Finally, Zambia are back where they belong among the big boys of African football—this felt like the real KK XI of Kenneth Kaunda’s days.
Grant is back to the Afcon finals eight years after he led Ghana to the final he lost to the same Elephants on post-match penalties.
Saturday’s win was no doubt a matter of personal pride and triumph for Grant.
Zambia: Roderick Kabwe, Stoppila Sunzu, Lawrence Mulenga, Frankie Musonda, Tandie Mwape, Kelvin Kapumbu, Lubambo Musonda, Emmanuel Banda, Kings Kangwa,Patson Daka, Fashion Sakala.
Ayayi Charles Folly (GK)
Serge Aurier (C), Eric Bertrand Bailly, Simon Deli
Jonathan Bamba, Ghislain Konan Ibrahim Sangare, Idrissa Doumbia, Franck Yannick Kessie, Christian Kouakou Kouame, Jean-Philippe Krasso
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