Three simple steps for Sven Vandenbroeck to improve Chipolopolo
New Zambia coach Sven Vandenbroeck begins his life as Chipolopolo coach against Namibia away this weekend, with the new man surely keen to get his tenure off to a winning start.
The Belgian has little margin for error as he seeks to overcome a 1-0 loss at home to Mozambique in the opening round of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, and while his maiden squad was welcomed, the new man still has much work to do to improve on his predecessor Wedson Nyirenda.
Here are three simple steps the Belgian must take to prompt a big improvement for Zambia as he looks to reestablish them within the African game.
Find the right mix between youth and experience
Zambia are a team in transition, with a fresh crop of talent from their trailblazing U-20 team showing they have both the quality and the hunger to make a difference on the big stage.
Austria-based pair Patrick Daka and Enoch Mwepu, and Fashion Sakala of Belgian side KV Oostende captured headlines in the World Cup qualifiers with some scintillating displays.
Others, such as Sakala's club-mate Emmanuel Banda and Sweden-based teenage forward Edward Chilufya, should also be making a strong case for inclusion in the coming months.
Vandenbroeck must therefore tap into the emerging generation while also ensuring there are enough experienced hands to stabilise things.
Fortunately, Zambia have enough battle-hardened soldiers to go around, and the decision to recall Nathan Sinkala, Clatous Chama, Kabaso Chongo, and Emmanuel Mbola could ultimately prove a masterstroke.
Former captain Rainford Kalaba, too, might be past his prime, but his presence can prove invaluable in providing guidance and motivation to a largely youthful forward line.
Going forward, Vandenbroeck might also need to consider 25-year-old Evans Kangwa, who has been doing well for Arsenal Tula in the Russian top flight and has 24 caps to his name.
Slot Banda into central midfield
Zambia boast so much quality in the final third it can be tempting to overlook the fact that they still need to win the ball in the first place, in order to supply the forwards.
It remains unclear what formation Vandenbroeck will favour, but that matter little as long as he keeps his midfield balance right, and find the right blend between flair and graft.
Mwepu is likely to retain his role as the team's creative hub, while many Zambia fans will also have welcomed the return of Tout Puissant Mazembe man Sinkala.
Yet one cannot escape the sense that there could still be a key component missing, notably, a box-to-box midfielder who can support Sinkala in ball-winning while also supporting the attack.
The man for the job could be Banda, whose momentum has been disrupted by niggling injuries.
In a 4-3-3 formation, Mwepu and Banda could operate either side of Sinkala to give the team balance in central midfield.
Things could also be remodelled into a 4-2-3-1, where Banda and Sinkala could partner in a deeper midfield two in support of Mwepu.
Retain enough cover in all areas
Former coach Nyirenda did not win himself many friends after continuously overlooking many of Zambia's most experienced players.
Vandenbroeck has swiftly rectified that anomaly, but a few grey areas may also have cropped up.
For instance Sinkala, seems to be the only natural defensive linkman of note in the team, with the versatile Donoshano Malama having been overlooked.
Roving full-back Simon Silwimba, too, may feel he still has something to offer after the recall of Chongo, who can alternates between the right-back and centre-half positions for Mazembe.
Malama, who recently joined Moroccan side Olympique Khouribga, can provide cover for bother defensive midfield and the centre-half position, and he could yet be a key figure in Vandenbroeck's attempted revival of Chipolopolo.