[By Darious Kapembwa in Harare, Zimbabwe]
CHIPOLOPOLO hotshot striker Patson Daka described the 2-0 final group H win against Zimbabwe as an emotional one because it won’t take Zambia to the Africa Cup.
Zambia put up a dominant display in Harare in a dead rubber match and could have run away with an embarrassing hammering of the Warriors, had all the chances created been converted.
Many Zimbabweans including officials believe that Zambia deserved to qualify to the finals.
The few people that accessed the 60,000 capacity National Sports Stadium including social media users in Zimbabwe are huge admirers of Daka and his Redbull Salzburg team mate Enoch Mwepu who they feel deserved to be at AfCON.
Zimbabwe fielded their full strength squad that beat Botswana 1-0 last Thursday, but despite showing some flashes of brilliance reminiscent of a derby match between neighbouring countries, could not handle a much improved and ruthless Chipolopolo that held and passed the ball well from the first whistle.
This time around, Chipolopolo had a well organised defence line compared to last week’s 3-3 display against Algeria.
The combination of Mwepu, Clatous Chama, Larry Bwalya and Daka in the final third proved too hot for the hosts to handle as their slick movement led to Daka’s opener on 20 minutes.
Mwepu missed a glorious chance to make it 2-0 moments later after another neat interchange with Chama and Daka but with the goal keeper wrong-footed, his chance went inches wide.
In an interview after the match, Daka urged the nation to look forward.
Daka had his goal disallowed for offside but in the dying minutes of the match he emphatically connected a low cross from Mwepu on 91 minutes.
“Despite us winning today, it’s a very emotional day for us, knowing that we could not go to the Africa Cup and it has been one thing that we were really looking forward to. Unfortunately, that was not the plan from God and we just have to accept what has happened,” he said. “And I think today we have shown that we didn’t just come here to play around but we came to give our best for the country. And we played as a team again and at the end of the day we had a positive result, which was very important for our confidence going forward.”
Daka said it was time for the team to fight to go to the world Cup when qualifiers begin in June, saying Monday’s game was part of the World Cup preparations.
“I think from the word go, we’ve been looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers and today’s game was also part of the process and the start of the process. So, we made sure that today’s game was going to give us the direction going forward for the World Cup qualifiers and we know that we have a lot of things that we have to work on,” he said. “And the coach is the best person to bring those things up and we just have to work together as a team and to the coach’s instructions.”
Daka, who has scored five games – the most in the qualifiers, credited the success to his team mates.
“…it’s not very important for me because I wouldn’t have done it alone. It was a team effort. If my friends were not there to support me, I don’t think I would have made it. So, I give the credit to the team because we played as a team and we helped each other and at the end of the day I was just found at the right place at the right time to be the person to help the team,” he said.
Asked about reports linking him with a move to big European clubs, Daka said his agent would always sort out things for him.
“…for me I have just concentrated on playing football because that’s what I am good at. Whatever speculation that comes, I don’t really pay attention because I know that my agent is there to do the work. So, I don’t really pay attention to what the media is saying and rumours are always there as long as you are doing well. They will always be there, so for me I try by all means to work each and every game because like, for example today’s performance, it won’t count the next day,” said Daka. “So, I really have to keep consistency and every day to give my best to make sure that I continue to help the team in every possible way. My target has always been the same from the very first moment I started playing football. It’s always to help the team in every game. So I don’t have to concentrate much about the future. So, what I’ll do today will determine my future.”