ZAMBIA must overcome South Africa today to remain in contention for a semi-final slot at the Africa Under-23 Championship that is a prelude to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The dream was turned into a nightmare on Saturday night when Zambia lost 2-1 to Tunisia, a result that left Fighton Simukonda’s boys sharing the basement with distant neighbours South Africa in Group A.
Hosts Senegal put South Africa to the sword via a 3-1 bashing and they could do with a draw against Tunisia in the other group match.
The loss put Zambia into some basic mathematics; a loss would be an outright elimination while a draw will leave them with some glimmer of hope. Victory would certainly play them back into contention for a semi-final slot.
This is the situation Zambia has found itself in and should beat South Africa to bounce back in contention for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games outing.
The matches between the teams are always tough because of the southern African rivalry and Simukonda knows what is at stake.
“The game against South Africa is a must-win for us. We are still in contention for the 2016 Olympic Games and we have to fight,” Simukonda said.
To secure victory, Simukonda will rely on goalpoacher Ronald ‘Sate Sate’ Kampamba.
Kampamba scored a brilliant long-range shot against Tunisia and holds the key in today’s match.
Simukonda, however, will miss injured striker Patrick Ngoma.
Kampamba might partner with Obrey Chirwa or Friday Samu.
The junior Chipolopolo will be boosted with the arrival of Armenia-based Lubambo Musonda.
Lubambo, a pacey winger, will be supplying crosses to the strikers from the right flank while Conlyde Luchanga will be doing the running on the opposite flank.
Paul Katema will operate behind the two strikers while Jackson Chirwa will anchor the midfield.
Skipper Toaster Nsabata, who will be between the posts, said the junior Chipolopolo will aim for victory.
“We are ready and we are looking forward to beating South Africa,” Nsabata said.
But South Africa are equally in danger of elimination and will go for victory.
South Africa coach Owen da Gama will look to Phakamani Mahlambi and teenage striker Paseka Mako for success.
Mako is a lethal weapon and the defence of Benedict Chepeshi, Boyd Mkandawire, Benson Sakala, and Kapota Kayawe should be tight.
“We can’t say we are out just because we have lost one game [against Senegal]. We have to beat Zambia and Tunisia. I have confidence in my players,” da Gama said.
The last meeting between the rivals was at under-20 level at the 2015 Senegal Africa Youth Championship and South Africa won 5-2.