A BRACE from Leicester City hitman Patson Daka along with strikes from Fashion Sakala and Zambia’s export to Italy, Lameck Banda gave Zambia a delicious 4-2 victory as Chipolopolo Boys opened their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign against the Red Devils of Congo Brazzaville at the near capacity Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola last evening.
Zambia’s win over their Central African opponents put them on top of the Group E table ahead of World Cup semi-finalists Morocco, Niger and East African neighbours Tanzania.
Fresh from reclaiming a place at the African Cup of Nations after missing out on three tournaments, Avram Grant’s men have now set their focus on making a maiden appearance at the FIFA World Cup.
The intentions could have not been more clear as Daka nodded in a Fashion Sakala cross just after four minutes of play to spark bedlam in the stands.
However, Zambia’s lead was shortlived.
The visitors took advantage of some sloppy defending and poor goalkeeping to score two quick goals in the 12th and 14th minute to take the lead resulting in increased panic and worry across the anthrax-hit nation.
In the 35th minute, cheers of joy in the stands quickly turned to insults targeted a the Egyptian referee after he controversially ruled Al-Fayha striker Fashion Sakala’s equaliser offside.
Three minutes before the break, Serie A player was back in scoring position and this time it counted sending the Chipolopolo Boys to half time level on 2-2.
On resumption, the well-oiled Saudi machine, Fashion Sakala shouldered in Zambia’s third goal on 51 minutes before Daka completed his brace in injury time of the game.
Zambia plays their second game against Niger on Morocco on Tuesday night while group opponents Tanzania will face Niger today before facing Morocco on Tuesday.
Eritrea pulled out of race a week ago without giving reasons although local media reported that government was fearful their players would start looking for jobs when they travel for games outside.
With other teams yet to play, Zambia is in the driving seat with three points.
By Buumba Mwitumwa