ON TUESDAY night, I watched in agony as the Zambia under-23 national soccer team lost to their Nigerian counterparts 3-1.
Looking at the marvellous past performances of the team, it was almost unthinkable that they would lose in such an embarrassing manner.
However, in football, any result is possible. The lads lost this game mainly because they did not have a clear tactical game plan on how to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition while the Nigerians won because they had a more measured and tactical approach to the game by taking advantage of one key weakness in the Zambia set-up: poor defending of set pieces! The loss has left the team with a very slim chance of qualifying for the next round and this chance will so much hinge on the result of the final group game between Nigeria and South Africa.
In short, in order for Zambia to qualify for the semi-finals of the tournament in Egypt, they will have to beat Ivory Coast and hope that South Africa beats Nigeria. Alternatively, in the slimmest of likelihoods, Zambia will still qualify if they beat the Ivory Coast by at least two unanswered goals and South Africa lose to Nigeria by a 2-0 margin.
Tuesday night’s defeat against Nigeria was a bitter pill to swallow, but it can be transformed into a learning opportunity by the technical bench to better prepare for the final group game. All soccer fans should by now know that with the current Zambia under-23 team, impossible is nothing and with a better tactical approach for the next game, the junior Chipolopolo can still beat the Ivory Coast and qualify for the next round.
As soccer fans, we hope Tuesday night’s loss does not present a bad omen for the senior Zambia national soccer team’s match against Algeria in Blida today.
All the best under-23, all the best senior Chipolopolo.