Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
HAVING been starved of success on the football pitch for a long time, I have to send my hearty congratulations to the national team for their triumph at the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Senior Challenge Cup in Durban, South Africa.
This is a tournament we should be dominating but have found tough-going in recent years losing mostly to our nemesis across the Zambezi River, Zimbabwe, usually at the last hurdle.
Having finally overcome them at the semi-final stage, the national team technical bench, led by Aggrey Chiyangi, and the players, who had some green horns among them, deserve huge commendation.
The victory was timely as it gives Zambians confidence following the failure to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations kicking off next week Friday in Egypt.
For those who have forgotten, Zambia beat Botswana 1-0 courtesy of forward Tapson Kaseba’s strike in the second half.
It is Botswana that Zambia will once again face in the last round of the 2020 African Nations Championship (CHAN), a competition for locally based players.
We should expect largely the same team, with only minor changes, to face Botswana when the first leg is played on July 27 in Gaborone with the return fixture following a week later in Lusaka.
The say once beaten twice shy and therefore we should be ready for the reaction from Botswana, who have made tremendous improvement in their standard of play in recent years.
Zambia have been a thorn in the flesh of Botswana for a long time, and the Zebras will not easily accept the Chipolopolo to qualify for the CHAN finals at their expense.
Preparations for the match against Botswana should start in earnest.
The COSAFA victory should be treated as water under the bridge and the Football Association of Zambia and the Chipolopolo technical bench should immediately draw up a training programme.
Having failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in 2017 and 2019, booking a ticket to the CHAN finals is non-negotiable.
In fact, even merely qualifying may not be enough as we should aim at going all the way to lift the CHAN trophy.
Zambia’s best performance was finishing third at the inaugural CHAN tournament in Ivory Coast in 2009 and have since twice reached the quarter-finals in 2016 and 2018.
And under-23 national team coach Beston Chambeshi has raised a valid issue on Zambian strikers wanting to race with the ball into the box and then score.
Chambeshi observed this during the international friendly against Cameroon in Madrid, Spain, which Zambia lost 2-1 on Sunday night.
“We had so many chances but we did not utilise our chances. We need players that can shoot from long distance. We had to attack so many times. It was a good game and even Cameroon felt our strength,” Chambeshi said.
But Chambeshi should lead the way by ensuring that his Nkana players score from outside the box.
Days of wanting to beat the whole defence, including the goalkeeper, and then put the ball into the net are long gone.
Modern football entails that goals can be scored from any position.
Once in a while, players can dribble a forest of defenders, race with the ball into the box and score.
However, we need to address these technical and tactical issues at club level.
At the national team, there is little time to go into details because of time factor.
Midfielder Derby Makinka, a victim of the 1993 Gabon air crash, scored a thunderbolt from outside the box as Zambia beat Tunisia 1-0 in a 1990 Italy World Cup qualifier at Independence Stadium in Lusaka.
In February this year, Zesco striker Lazarus Kambole blasted a cracker past Nkana goalkeeper Kelvin Malunga in a Confederation Cup group stage match at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola when his side won 2-0.
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Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI