ZAMBIA this evening begins its quest for a place at next year’s Tokyo Olympics with a game against regional rivals South Africa at the U-23 Africa Cup of Nations at Al Salam Stadium in Cairo.
The match this evening is a repeat of that epic semi-final at the 2017 CAF U-20 AfCON in Lusaka when Edward Chilufya broke South African hearts with a goal in the dying minutes of the game to win it for Zambia.
The match is a repeat in the sense that both teams have pretty much the same players in their ranks, the complexion of their squads has not changed from these two teams’ 2017 U-20 squads.
However, Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi goes into this important fixture with a headache as he will be without three key players, Enock Mwepu, Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka.
Sakala is suspended for the opening game following the red card picked up in the last qualifying match while Mwepu and Daka will only join the team after featuring for their team Redbull Salzburg’s weekend fixtures after which the international break follows.
Zambia warmed up for this important match with a 4-2 victory over local Egyptian side Al Nasir with Chambeshi declaring his team ready for tonight’s match.
It will be interested to see how Chambeshi juggles his team in the absence of the trio which has been a fulcrum of his team over the last three years.
“We are looking forward to the first game, it’s the start of the tournament at least you have to pick a point. [If] we pick three points it will be good. We are looking at that but at the same time you have to be cautious. You know this is a tournament where we have to make sure we don’t concede but it’s football we have to look at both ways, attack and defence. But the most important thing we have to make sure that we come up with a result. The boys are looking forward to the game on Saturday,” said Chambeshi, who will be with four professionals for the first game.
Emmanuel Banda, Edward Chilufya, Kings Kangwa and Lameck Banda are the foreign based players in the Zambian team.
The game kicks off at 20:00 hours and will be live on Supersport.
The final three teams from this competition will qualify to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.