FRANKLYN MALAMBO writes @SunZambian

THE clouds are dark, this time, not to signal a positive sign of rain but as an indication of diminishing hope. The feeling and reality of struggle to qualify for the AfCON has become familiar.
Just like it was six days ago, we are back to the base, anchoring all the teams in Group H.
Three points from a possible 12 and concession of nine goals paints an undesired picture and represents the sad state of Chipolopolo’s bid of making it to the continental games. Simply put, it’s in tatters.
What’s next considering there is a fair certainty now that Zambia is about to score a hat trick insofar as making it to the AfCON is concerned? How did we even get to this point where teams like Botswana become hard to handle?
Well, the former I elect to look at today, the latter may be a topic for another day.
As always after a loss, daggers are out looking for whom to stub and put the blame on for a defeat. With hope having been restored after the Lusaka leg, it’s understandable that expectations went on to a whole new level and so did emo-tional attachment.
A loss then is bitter to take.
Back to reality, it’s not all doom and gloom as there are six more points to play for and depending on Dynamics else-where, maximising on the same could be enough to book a ticket to Cameroon.
This belief and hope will however have to be matched by dedication, effort, nous and above all results. On the evidence of progression made under Micho, all boxes could be ticked by the time the next qualifiers are played.
On the evidence of last two matches played, there is no question about the desire to do more but a few can be raised quality in some patches. This quality can only be sharpened and bring a patch of green with more practice matches and work on the field. It’s the most basic way of improving performance.
On the other hand, we cannot afford to do a mini dismantling of the side and hope to get it right against Algeria first and later Zimbabwe. As fans and sympathisers alike, there is a craze about always wanting to discard those that seem to fail in preference for ‘others.
In the end, we go round the same circle and like a rolling Stone, gather no moss. We basically have to build on the same platform that has been created and find ways of moving forward.
The new looking side has rough edges but can be sharpened and enhanced with a few more faces.
Checks on social media post the match reviewed a lot of negatives thoughts and feelings over coach Micho. In some cases, certain comments and tags looked preconceived and only needed a negative result to be unleashed.
Well, the reality is Micho’s side may have lost but with unclouded judgement or lenses, one would see the progress made thus far under the Serbian. His record before coming to Zambia was friendly and the one here thus far doesn’t look so bad either.
Granted, questions about his philosophy around player selection and preferences may be in question but one certainty is he does what he thinks is best not only for the current Chipolopolo needs but for the future one too.
Just like the masses, I believe he too is disappointed but If a revival that we dream of has to be realised, he will still re-main key in the operation and must be given the desired time to steer the ship.
Moving on, the main cogs in the operation equally have a challenge on their hands.
Not to question their dedication to the cause but some of the lads went flat in the Botswana leg. It was like watching two separate sets of players once compared to the leg at Heroes National Stadium.
Players must ensure to give it their all once given chance to play leave everything on the pitch. They must ‘die with their boots on’.
To do what has not been done in the last two attempts will require unmatched effort, dedication and application. Without which, we may as well forget about Cameroon.
It’s not a time for finger pointing but a time to reflect deeply, to review with clear minds, plan the next course of action which should be matched with adequate preparation and go out there and try to do it all over again.
The dark cloud may yet turn out positive only if it’s used as a motivator and between now and the next qualifiers, all in-volved must be angry and hungry to get it done.
Looking beyond the 2021 qualifiers may be the most certain way of getting joy with focus on next world cup and AFCON but Slim as the chances for these ones may be, hope is the last thing to lose.


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