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Post-mortem as Zambia returns

PATSON PHIRI

Analysis: PATSON PHIRI
FOLLOWING the exit by the young Chipolopolo, who were eliminated by 10-man Italy on Monday in the 2017 South Korea Under-20 World Cup, Zambians

have been left listing the wrongs that caused their departure from South Korea.
The treatises in post-match analyses have mainly started with the word ‘if’. Yes, if Zambia employed delaying tactics, if there was a substitution aimed at delaying play, ‘if’ a defender was introduced soon after Zambia scored the second goal and such accusatory statements.
Indeed what went wrong? It must be said that apportioning blame on anyone after a loss is bad manners. But saying the truth is not bad manners. That is my entry point in trying to discern on the question: What went wrong in Zambia’s final match in Korea against Italy?
Earlier in the round of 16, Zambia could not hold onto the lead late in the game and allowed the Germans to score in the 90th minute. That forced the game into extra time and Zambia eventually won.
In the final game against Italy, they allowed Federico Dimarco to fire home a brilliant free-kick that nestled into the bottom corner.
Eventually, Italy hit the front in the second half of extra time when Dimarco swung over a corner and substitute Luca Vido powered a header past Zambian goalkeeper Mangani Banda.
That is how Zambia let a late lead slip in to fall to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of a team that had been reduced to 10 men in the first half.
Young Chipolopolo wasted a host of chances to win the game and could not make their numerical advantage count despite goals from Patson Daka and Fashion Sakala and, generally, a good display. The team restricted the Italians in their own half during most spaces of game time.
They led with five minutes remaining on the clock, but after Dimarco powered home a brilliant free-kick to equalise, Luca Vido found a winner in extra time and that was it. Zambia were out.
Two incidents at the tournament need special mention. Germany equalised in the 90th minute while Italy on Monday equalised in the 84th minute to force an injury-time play-off.
This is where the question is. What do teams do when they are leading with less than 10 minutes to play? Who is responsible for making decisions when it is time to defend the lead?
It is at this stage that I have very little control to avoid saying something that will be misinterpreted as blame game, but let it stand.
The technical bench should have allowed the lads to play delaying tactics. Out of the five minutes that had remained, it was possible to give Italy two minutes of play and the rest should have been wasted.
In the last five minutes, the Italians fired three powerful shots as they confined Zambia to their own goal-mouth. It was at this stage that Mangani Banda should have gone down ‘injured’.
Goalkeepers are given five minutes for treatment when they are injured before the referee can direct the medical team to treat the player from the touchline.
I am not advocating unfair play but delaying the game is part of the game, and this was seen in the same game soon after Italy scored. They went down even when they were pushed by the wind and time was going until the match ended.
In fact, soccer coaches now dedicate some time to train players how to delay a game if they want to defend a lead.
So, our technical bench must receive my verdict that they must take up lessons on delaying tactics next time they will get a chance to coach at that level.
The author is a journalist.

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