Soccer Review with STEPHEN PHIRI
SOUTH Africa 2 Zambia 0 was the description of one football analyst on social media after last week’s fixtures.
This was in reference to Zesco United’s exit from the Confederation Cup and the national women’s team loss to South Africa in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Championship in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Zesco drew 2-2 with South African outfit SuperSport United in a quarter-final return leg at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola to bow out of Africa’s second-tier competition on away goal rule.
The Shepolopolo squandered a three-goal lead and went on to lose 5-3 on penalties to South Africa in the COSAFA Championship semi-final encounter last Thursday.
Zesco could have done better to protect the slender 2-1 lead.
The players lacked discipline with 30 seconds remaining before the end of the match and allowed SuperSport to get a vital goal that took them to the Confederation Cup semi-finals.
It was a painful defeat and, going forward, there is need for coaches across the country to find a solution to the failure by Zambian clubs to defend when they go in front.
The same thing happened to Zanaco in the CAF Champions League Group D match against Moroccan side Wydad Casablanca on July 8.
Needing a draw to qualify for the quarter-finals, Zanaco lost 1-0 in Casablanca to bow out of the competition.
The Zanaco and Zesco scenarios should be a learning curve so that next time Zambian clubs will be equal to the task.
Both Zanaco and Zesco were candidates to lift trophies in their respective competitions.
Between now and February 2018, clubs should ensure that flaws that were exposed in this year’s Africa inter-club competitions are rectified so that the country could stand a chance of winning silverware.
In the history of the Champions League, Zambia’s best showing was reaching the final in 1990 by Nkana while Power Dynamos won the Nelson Mandela Cup [now Confederation Cup] in 1991.
With tactical discipline, Zambian clubs have what it takes to win the two titles.
After all, Zambian clubs have over the years reduced the gap with the likes of Al Ahly of Egypt, Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia and Algerian side JS Kabylie among others.
Zesco beat Al Ahly 3-2 in Ndola last year during the CAF Champions League group stage campaign and drew 2-2 in Cairo.
Zanaco managed goalless draws with Al Ahly in this year’s lucrative competition.
This is proof enough that Zambian football has come of age.
It is good that Zesco players have taken responsibility for the elimination from the Confederation Cup.
For the Shepolopolo, they lacked discipline when it mattered most.
The technical bench could have protected the three-goal lead to ensure a final berth.
It is like the technical bench and players could not handle excitement of leading 3-0 against an experienced South African side.
In the end, Banyana Banyana won the match.
It is my hope that the Shepolopolo learnt lessons and will not let down the country next time they are donning national colours.
The loss to South Africa was a bitter pill to swallow.