STEPHEN PHIRI, Suwon, South Korea
ITALY today stand in Zambia’s way to progress to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup semi-finals with skipper Solomon Sakala saying the young Chipolopolo will strive to keep a clean sheet for the first time in the competition.
Solomon said in an interview on Saturday that conceding seven goals in the last four games is a concern to the players.
"We will try to keep a clean sheet because we have conceded too many goals. All the players know that we have to defend in numbers,” he said.
Solomon said preparations for the clash against Italy started immediately after beating Germany 4-3 last Wednesday.
Solomon, however, admitted that the team will not have it easy against the Italians.
Zambia edged Portugal 2-1, thumped Iran 4-2, lost 1-0 to Costa Rica to top Group C with six points.
The young Chipolopolo overcame Germany in the round of 16 to set up a quarter-final clash against Italy, who beat France 2-1 last Thursday.
Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi is expected to use the same line-up that has delivered in the last four matches.
Patson Daka and Enock Mwepu will partner in attack.
Daka has netted once while Mwepu has been on target twice.
Daka, Mwepu and defender Prosper Chiluya faced the Italians at the under-17 invitational tournament in Rome in 2014 and know where to press to overcome their opponents.
Italy beat Zambia 2-0.
Fashion Sakala, who is in the race for the golden boot award with three goals, will be doing the running on the left wing, while Edward Chilufya will be on the opposite flank.
Chilufya has scored once.
Emmanuel Banda will operate behind the two strikers as Zambia seek a maiden semi-final appearance.
The Portugal-based Emmanuel has found the net twice in the competition.
Chambeshi will choose between Boyd Musonda and Ngosa Sunzu for the holding role.
Musonda has struggled to show his prowess in the last four matches.
"The players are looking sharp and are ready to face any team. At the level we have reached, we should expect to face any European team. Italy play with physique and are strong in the air. We need to have our own style of play to beat them,” Chambeshi said.
Chambeshi beat Italy twice as a player – 2-0 at the President Cup in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, and a few months later 4-0 in the group stage at the Olympics.
As coach, Chambeshi is eager to extend the dominance over the Italians.
But it will not be easy because Italy are seeking revenge.
Italy coach Alberico Evani said in an interview on Saturday that revenge is on his mind.
Evani, a midfielder in his heyday, was part of the Italian national team that lost twice to Zambia 29 years ago.
“We want to revenge for the two losses but it will not be easy. The match will be a 50/50 affair and the better team will win,” he said.
Evani, who described Zambia as a difficult opponent, said his charges will have to play a passing game in a bid to deny the young Chipolopolo space to unleash counter-attacks.
“The Zambian forwards are very fast and they rely on counter-attacks and they are organised with a good passing game,” he said.
Evani will rely on Riccardo Orsolini and Guiseppe Panico to keep the chase for the trophy on track.
Orsolini and Panico were on target in the win over France last Thursday.
Another player who could cause havoc for Zambia is Andrea Favalli.
Favalli has skill and pace and the Zambian defence should be at its best to keep him at bay.
The Italians are tall and may attack using the left wing manned by Chiluya.
Chiluya is short and Chambeshi has an option of using towering Muchindu Muchindu.
Italy will miss the creativity of midfielder Rolando Mandragora who is suspended.
Shemmy Mayembe, whose goal sank Germany, is a sure starter on the right wing with Moses Nyondo and Solomon partnering in central defence.
Mangani Banda will be in goal.
Italy, who are yet to win the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, reached the quarter-finals in 2009.
The match billed for Suwon World Cup Stadium will kick off at 10:00 hours Zambian time.