THE Zambia Under-20 national team yesterday put up a remarkable come-back from two goals down to beat Iran 4-2 to qualify to the knock-out round of the on-going FIFA World Cup in South Korea.
Zambia started poorly, conceding two early goals in either half but recovered to make it to the round of 16 teams with a game to spare the second time after then George Lwandamina’s side reached the same stage in 2007.
Junior Chipolopolo goal keeper Mangani Banda was guilty of elementary howler that proved to be an assist for Iran’s goal early in the eighth minute into the first half.
Banda chose to be exuberant instead of clearing straight on from his yard and tamely directed the pass at dangerman Reza Shekari who slotted in the opener.
Zambia mounted the pressure in a bid to equalise but wasted numerous created opportunities, shooting wildly in most cases with the closest being late in the 44th minute when Fashion Sakala rose high to connect Shemmy Mayembe’s header but hit the post to take them 1-0 into the break.
On resumption, Iran started the second half more like they did the first and were greatly helped by the referee when he awarded them a penalty, adjudging substitute Patson Daka to have fouled livewire Shekari in the box when TV replays showed otherwise.
Shekari rose to convert the spot box and his brace to make it 2-0 amid protestations from the Zambian players on 49 minutes.
Then Iranians were shuttered by the quick fire 17 minutes from Zambia.
In the 54th minute, Fashion Sakala raced down the left flank, weaved his way in the box and unleashed a powerful shot on the near post to pull one goal back.
Four minutes later, Enock Mwepu levelled matters 2-2 after a neat interchange with Edward Chilufya and Daka.
The worst came for Iran when Emmanuel Banda, who orchestrated much of the second half display in the midfield, scored a third from a rebound off Sakala’s shot to make it 3-2.
Iran could not imagine what had hit them as six minutes later, Daka avenged his dubious penalty punishment when he sealed off Zambia’s sensational victory on 71 minutes and dominated play to end the game 4-2.
Zambia’s next game is against Costa Rica on tomorrow, which is a formality group match.