Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
THE under-20 national team’s performance during the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Youth Championship was poor.
I expected the boys to reach the semi-finals but it was a first-round ejection.
A year ago, coach Beston Chambeshi and his boys gave the country an early Christmas present by winning the COSAFA Cup for a record 11th time in South Africa but this time around the junior Chipolopolo were on the receiving end.
The junior Chipolopolo lost 2-0 to Uganda last Wednesday, drew goalless with Malawi five days ago and returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Swaziland on Monday.
They bowed out with two goals courtesy of Division One Zone Two side Chambishi striker Francisco Mwepu and conceded twice.
This is not a good record for the outgoing champions.
With the 2019 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying race around the corner, there is need for the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to keep the junior Chipolopolo busy with international friendlies.
The team needs exposure to follow in the foot-steps of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations winning squad that went on to reach the quarter-finals at the World Cup in South Korea.
It is good that Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Andrew Kamanga has promised decent preparations ahead of the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Truth be told, coach Mumamba Numba and his players, mostly from the under-17 squad that won the COSAFA Under-17 Championship in Mauritius in July this year, were not ready for the annual tournament.
The event was too big for most of the players and I am sure they have learnt from their mistakes.
But I was impressed with Francisco Mwepu, skipper Prince Mumba and Martin Njobvu among others and, with exposure, these players could emulate the likes of Patson Daka, Fashion Sakaka and Enock Mwepu.
Daka, Sakala and Mwepu have passed through the mill and today they are regulars for the senior national team.
Numba and his technical bench should cast the net wide and identify players that could make a difference in crucial matches.
I am sure there are several Dakas, Mwepus, Sakalas, Emmanuel Bandas and Mangani Bandas across the country who can contribute to the success of the under-20 side.
With adequate preparations, Numba could assemble a team that could defend the Africa Cup of Nations title and qualify for the World Cup.
I am directing Kitwe and Copperbelt fans at large to turn up in numbers for the COSAFA Youth Championship semi-finals tomorrow and final on Saturday.
I am aware that most of the fans are frustrated following the junior Chipolopolo’s ejection but there is need to show the real Zambian hospitality.
May the best team win.