Sport

Nation’s hopes rest on Nkana

Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
WHEN Nkana and Zesco United were pitted together in Group C of the Confederation Cup, it was largely thought to be a fair draw – we thought that both teams had a fair chance to progress to the quarter-finals.
However, the tragedy of familiarity played a part in getting Zesco eliminated with a game to spare. Both teams collected maximum points off each other while playing at home.
Notwithstanding Sunday’s 3-0 loss to Nkana which saw them eliminated, Zesco had made matters difficult by failing to collect maximum points off Sudanese side Al Hilal when they hosted them at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola. The situation was further compounded by their inability to pick even a point on their travels to Kumasi, Ghana, where they faced Asante Kotoko, and Khartoum against Al Hilal.
It made the match against Nkana difficult, particularly for neutrals. A draw would have complicated matters even for Nkana.
In the end though, Nkana triumphed to take charge of Group C with nine points, one better than Al Hilal, who they play on Sunday in Khartoum, where they need to avoid defeat to progress to the quarter-finals.
Kotoko have seven points, three better than Zesco, who they lock horns with in Ndola on Sunday.
A defeat for Nkana in Khartoum and a win for Kotoko at Zesco will see the Wusakile outfit eliminated from the CAF second-tier competition.
This is how dicey the race for the quarter-final slots has become with one round remaining.
For Nkana, they will be hoping that Zesco do them a favour by beating Kotoko. While that will be a welcome outcome, it should not be the approach as they go into the match against Al Hilal – they should aim at winning.
There is no need to play a defensive game because the best form of defence is attack.
Coach Beston Chambeshi should get his tactics right knowing fully well that the nation’s hopes lie with Nkana.
So far, Nkana have lost two away matches in the group stage, which is worrying.
They lost 2-0 to Zesco in Ndola on February 3 and were bashed 3-0 by Kotoko in Kumasi on March 3. Such results should not repeat themselves on Sunday.
It will be a national disaster if Nkana fail to reach the quarter-finals of the Confederation Cup having had four teams at the start of the continental campaigns this season.
The country needs representation in the quarter-finals so that the four slots – two in the CAF Champions League and two in the Confederation Cup – could be secured.
Al Hilal are beatable and Nkana should approach the match with the right attitude.
To borrow Jose Mourinho’s phrase, impossible is nothing.
sphiri@daily-mail.co.zm, phiristeve4@gmail.com

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