Football Sport

U-23 coach Simukonda thinks ahead

DIANA MUTAKAFIMBO, Lusaka
UNDER-23 national team coach Fighton Simukonda does not want a repeat of the Nigeria debacle and is leaving nothing to chance in the 2015 Senegal Africa Under-23 Championship second round return leg against Ivory Coast.
In the 2015 Congo Brazzaville All-Africa Games qualifier, Zambia held Nigeria to a goalless draw in Abuja but lost 2-1 at home.
Simukonda said in an interview from Abidjan on Saturday night that the team will not relent until qualification for the Senegal finals is attained and later the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Zambia held Ivory Coast to a virgin draw.
“It is a good start but we still have a lot more to do. Ivory Coast is a good team and we need to work hard. We don’t want a repeat of what happened in the All-Africa Games qualifiers,” Simukonda said.
He commended the players for putting up a spirited fight and blamed Burkinabe referee Boukari Ouedraogo for disturbing his plan.
Zambia were reduced to 10 men in the dying minutes of the game after defender Boyd Mkandawire saw red for a second bookable offence.
“The referee messed up our plan when he sent off Mkandawire. Our plan was to get an away goal and finish them off at
home but a draw is a positive start and
we have to plan properly for the return leg. We can’t afford to lose again like we did to Nigeria. We have waited for so long and this is our chance to go to the Olympics,” Simukonda said.
And Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya commended the attitude of the players, saying the team has made a big stride towards qualifying for the Africa Under-23 Championship finals.
“The boys showed great cause playing a dangerous team like Ivory Coast and the team looked solid throughout the game. It is still 50/50 but with the commitment and determination we saw today [Saturday] we have hope. The boys have ambition and working hard to put the country on the world map,” said Kalusha from Abidjan.
Delegation leader Lee Kawanu commended the players for their exemplary behaviour while team manager Hastings Ndovi lauded the players for their resilience.
The team is expected back today.

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