ZAMBIA Under-20 soccer team coach Hector Chilombo is confident of sailing through to the semi-finals of the Africa Youth Championship (AYC) despite the 1-0 loss suffered at the hands of Mali on Monday evening.
The Junior Chipolopolo were denied a draw in the 73rd minute when Mali striker Alasani Dialo scored through a free kick.
Mali were more forceful and managed to win a free kick out- side Zambia’s 18 area which Diallo took and beat the Zambian defence.
Zambia’s fortunes would have been different but captain Lubambo Musonda’s only chance at goal in the 15th minute went wide. Skipper Musonda limped out from the pitch in the 21st minute after sustaining a knee injury and was replaced by Under- 17 captain Patson Daka.
Chilombo said it was sad that Zambia did not utilise the chances they had especially in the first half . “We knew it was going to be a tough game and we were prepared for it, unfortunately Mali managed to sneak a goal from a set piece. We are down but not out,” he said.
Assistant captain, Spencer Sautu, said it was unfortunate that his team lost to Mali in the first game of the competition.
Sautu said the match was tough and provided few chances for either side but was optimistic Zambia could still progress to the semi-finals. Meanwhile, Mali coach, Fanyeri Diarra believes Zambia really exposed the weaknesses in his team despite their slim 1-0 win.
Diarra described as a good assessment for the strength of his team ahead of upcoming challenges.
“When you go out there and start scoring freely, you really can’t evaluate the capability of your team. But in such a tight game against a good side like Zambia, I saw a number of weaknesses in my team which were exposed because the encounter was tough,” Dairra told supersport.com. “It is a win even if by a slim margin and logically we should be happy, but what I really care about right now is how to fix the defects I saw in my team ahead of our next game.”
Diarra declined to divulge where those weaknesses were in his team in order not to sell his game plan cheaply to their next opponents South Africa. Zambia will tomorrow play Ghana who beat South Africa in the other Group B match.