New Zambia coach Dario Bonetti has named his strongest possible squad for their opening CAF Africa Cup of Nations Group C qualifier against Comoros Islands early next month, even though their opponents are newcomers to this level of international competition.

The former Italy international, appointed last month to replace Frenchman Herve Renard, has picked 20 foreign-based players in the squad, three of whom are currently without a club, for the match against the tiny nation situated between Madagascar and Mozambique who will be playing in the Nations Cup preliminaries for the first time.

The match is at Nkhoma Stadium in Lusaka on 4 September with Zambia seeking to qualify for the continental finals for the 11th time in their last 12 attempts.

The club-less trio in the squad is made up of goalkeeper Kalililo Kakonje and midfielder Noah Chivuta, both recently released by their respective South African Premier League clubs, and midfielder Rainford Kalaba, who has not played competitively since featuring for Zambia at the last Nations Cup finals in Angola in January.

Winger Jonas Sakuwaha, based in France with Lorient, is recalled after a 12-month hiatus, even though he has had little game time in Ligue 1. Two other Congolese-based players – Hichani Himonde and Stopilla Sunzu of Mazembe – were left off because of injury but could be included if they recovered in time, the Football Association of Zambia said.

Zambia squad
Kalililo Kakonje (unattached), Kennedy Mweene (Free State Stars/South Africa)

Defenders: Kampamba Chintu (BidVest Wits/South Africa), Francis Kasonde (Al Hadez/Saudi Arabia), Emmanuel Mbola (TP Mazembe Englebert/DR Congo), Joseph Musonda (Lamontville Golden Arrows/South Africa)

Midfielders: Noah Chivuta, Rainford Kalaba (both unattached), Christopher Katongo (Xanthi/Greece), Felix Katongo (Al Ittihad/Libya), Sebastian Mwansa (TP Mazembe Englebert/DR Congo), William Njobvu (Hapoel Kiryat Shmone/Israel), Jonas Sakuwaha (Lorient/France), Fwayo Tembo (Basle/Switzerland)

Forwards: James Chamanga (Dalian Shide/China), Signs Chibambo (Al Masry/Egypt), Emmanuel Mayuka (Young Boys/Switzerland), Jacob Mulenga (FC Utrecht/Netherlands), Roger Kola (Moadon Sport Ashdod/Israel), Given Singuluma (TP Mazembe Englebert/DR Congo)