Irfan Kawri believes he can end Zambia's World Cup wait

Irfan Kawri of Zambia Irfan Kawri

Former Zambia assistant coach Irfan Kawri believes he could be the man to end the Chipolopolo's wait to reach a maiden World Cup.

The 2012 African champions have taken part in 13 qualifying campaigns for international football's showpiece, and are one of the most high-profile African nations never to have reached the grandest stage of all.

Indeed, the only other African Cup of Nations winners not to have reached the Mundial are Sudan, Ethiopia and Congo-Brazzaville - all of whom won the continental championship before 1973.

Ex-Clitheroe assistant coach and current Queens Park Rangers scout Kawri, who was part of Zambia's coaching staff between December 2015 to May 2016, believes he could be the man to end the wait.

"It would be a dream come true for me to manage Zambia and one day help take them to a World Cup," Kawri told KweseESPN. "I'm confident with the right people around me, and the right preparations and conditions, we could do it.

"I respect whoever the head coach is as I support the team and want the best for them at all times," he continued. "However, having been an assistant myself I know as a nation we can do things better.

"We need a clear vision, structure, philosophy and ethos coming that everyone buys into, not just coaches and players of the senior team, but all the youth teams, and administration and executive committee staff as well.

"We need synergy throughout."

Wedson Nyirenda's Zambia acquitted themselves well during the qualification campaign for the 2018 event in Russia, but fell short after being pitted into the 'Group of Death'.

The Copper Bullets were always up against it after being drawn along with Nigeria, Algeria and Cameroon, although they nonetheless took eight points and secured back-to-back wins over Les Fennecs.

Kawri believes that he has the required qualities to help Zambia end their World Cup woe and to finally qualify for the big one, but believes that improved organisation during training could be the simple difference-maker for the COSAFA heavyweights.

Notably, he believes that it wouldn't take too much to improve Zambia's defence, which conceded seven in six qualifying matches, more than any of the teams who did reach Russia.

"When I was assistant I did most of the training leading into the African Nations Championship to help prepare the team," he added. "I did a lot of phases of play, working on team shape and organisation in possession and out of possession and getting players to make the right decisions in transition.

"Senior players, including ex-AFCON 2012 winners, told me this is the training we needed and felt they were more organised," he concluded. "We ended up with the best defensive record in the CHAN, and only lost on penalties in the quarter final."

Zambia have been drawn alongside Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Namibia in their AFCON 2019 qualifying group.