Football Sport

Hats off to Zanaco, Zesco

SOCCER REVIEW with STEPHEN PHIRI
ONE has to congratulate Zanaco on their progression to the group stage of Africa’s premier soccer competition – the Champions League.
Not only Zanaco but Zesco United, too, for keeping their status as one of Africa’s best.
It’s not easy to qualify for the Champions League group stage with one win and two goals in four games.
And no one should blame Zanaco, whose performance is not any different from Manchester United’s who never lost in 18 games but still remained in sixth position.
I will not say anything about Arsenal and their 21-year-old relationship with manager Arsene Wenger. There is too much similarity between Arsene and Arsenal for them to part; they can only party.
Zanaco drew 1-1 on aggregate with Tanzanian side Young Africans to qualify for the CAF Champions League group stage while Zesco beat Burundian side Le Messager Ngozi 4-2 over two legs to progress to the second round of the Confederation Cup.
The Zambian champions deserve commendation because they performed fairly in the face of a mass exodus of players, which should not have been allowed.
Credit goes to coach Mumamba Numba for starting almost from scratch, which is not easy.
Scoring two goals is not a good record for a team dreaming about conquering Africa.
Quite certainly, it will be tough for Zanaco in the group stage because they will meet the giants of the continent.
Zanaco could be drawn with champions Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, Tunisia side Etoile de Sahel or Egyptian giants Ah Ahly and Zamalek.
At the group stage, the secret is to win all the home games and get a point or victory on the road.
And this entails sharpening the strike force.
With the Confederation of African Football (CAF) allowing teams to strengthen their sides in the group stage, Zanaco have an opportunity to recruit quality strikers who will make a difference.
Zanaco could take a leaf from Zesco, who won all their home matches, collected two points on the travels and lost once in the Champions League group stage last year.
Zesco have set the bar high and Zanaco have no choice but to surpass that achievement to prove that Zambian football is back to its glory days.
With proper planning, Zanaco have the ability to go all the way and lift the Champions League trophy.
For Zesco, they can do better than what they have displayed in the last two matches in the Confederation Cup.
Zesco have scored four times and conceded twice and the technical bench led by Serbian Zlatko Krmpotic should ensure that the flaws that were exposed by the Burundians are worked on.
Having reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League last year, Zambians expect Zesco to win the Confederation Cup.
Zesco face Nigerian side Enugu Rangers in the Confederation Cup play-off, and with adequate preparations, a group stage berth is assured.
sphiri@daily-mail.co.zm, phiristeve4@gmail.com

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