Rwanda takes on holders Zambia in the second round, first leg match of the 2019 qualifying campaign on Saturday, 15:30 at Stade de Kigali.
Rwanda booked their place on away goals rule against Kenya in April after finishing 0-0 in Kigali on April 21 to advance 1-1 on aggregate.
The 2017 champions enter the fray in the first round after enjoying preliminary round bye.
Rwanda goes into Saturday’s tie with a mission of winning the home leg according to Head coach Mashami Vincent.
Speaking to media on Friday, Mashami said, “Zambia is a great footballing nation and we have respect for that but their status won’t scare us. We have learned their style of play and are prepared accordingly. We will be out for a win, nothing less,” he said.
The former APR head coach noted that his team is in great mood and confidence was high in camp.
“It’ll be a tough game, which will require physical, tactical and mental preparedness to win, but the boys are equipped on all the fronts and, above all, they are inspired to make their country proud,.” he added.
On the other hand, Zambia comes into the qualifier under pressure to qualify after winning it as hosts last year.
“The boys are in high spirits due to the fact that they also want to make their own history,” Zambia U-20 assistant coach Charles Bwale told Zambian media.
The new team particularly comes into the qualifiers hoping to also redeem themselves after a poor outing as hosts of the 2017 COSAFA U-20 Cup last December in Kitwe.
Zambia failed to defend their crown after making a group stage exit after a 2-0 defeat against Uganda, drew 0-0 with Malawi and beat Swaziland 2-0.
Strikers Francesco Mwepu and Lameck Banda including midfielder Mumba Muma are the high-profile survivors from that failed run in December and will spearhead Zambia’s charge on the road to Niger.
The Junior Chipolopolo, though, prepared for their Rwanda date with a successful five-day training camp in Malawi where they played two friendlies; beating hosts Malawi 1-0 on May 5 and a local club side 3-1 three days later.
Furthermore, the Southern Africans have bolstered their team with two overseas-based debutants who are both UK-based. Striker Mwiya Malumo of Wigan and Shrewsbury Town midfielder Lifumpa Mwandwe trained with their colleagues for the first time in Kigali on Thursday after arriving in Rwanda on Wednesday night.
“They (Mwiya and Lifumpa) are fitting in well although they have a little challenge of adapting to the weather conditions,” Bwale said.
En route to the second round of qualifiers, Rwanda bundled out their counterparts of Kenya a fortnight ago, thanks to an away goal advantage. The teams played out a 1-all draw in Nairobi before sharing goalless spoils in the return leg in Kigali.
Meanwhile, the second leg will be played on 19 May 2018 in Lusaka with the winner advancing ultimate round where Sudan or Burundi await in the battle for the ticket to Niger.
Seven teams will emerge from the qualifiers to join host Niger for the final tournament scheduled for 2-17 February 2019.
Saturday, 12 May 2018
Rwanda vs Zambia
Mauritania vs Guinea
Guinea Bissau vs Nigeria
Burkina Faso vs Libya
Gabon vs Cote d’Ivoire
Burundi vs Sudan
Uganda vs Cameroon
Mozambique vs South Africa
Malawi vs Angola
Botswana vs Congo
Senegal vs Egypt
Sunday, 13 May 2018
Gambia vs Benin
Tanzania vs Mali