EXPECTATIONS were high when Zambia coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic named his team for the 2021 COSAFA Cup but yesterday’s defeat to Lesotho raises a lot of questions about reliability of our football compass especially with Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers ominously looming over the horizon.
To put Thursday’s loss into context, this is Lesotho’s first win after a 14 match winless run in which they had recorded seven losses and eight draws and new coach Leslie Ntosi has just won his first game from two matches in charge.
In the history of the competition, this was probably one of the strongest sides a coach has named for the regional competition as many coaches have had to rely on locally based players-and to their credit they did well to the extent of winning the cup.
Zambia won the cup in 2019 under Aggrey Chiyangi with locally based players who were preparing for the African Nations Championship (CHAN) but now it looks like defending the title is highly unlikely going by what was witnessed. Unless if the team can prove me wrong.
While some might argue that it is too early to rule the Chipolopolo out, yesterday’s result gave a glimpse of how far we seem to have evolved from a team that challenges for titles and dominating opponents to just a squad merely resigned to making up the numbers.
Mind you, the players that featured in yesterday’s shambolic display are supposed to make majority of the team to compete for a place at the Qatar 2022 World Cup finals and would be complemented by the likes of Patson Daka, Enock Mwepu, Cletus Chama and Fashion Sakala.
Now if the team cannot beat the likes of Lesotho, then I do not know how Zambia would overcome the likes of Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea and even Mauritania.
Mind you, all our Qatar Group B qualifier opponents qualified for the Cameroon 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final tournament.
The COSAFA tournament is supposed to provide an opportunity for Micho to assess his side but at the same time obliged to stamp its authority on these small teams by winning the competition and having the needed confidence ahead of the qualifiers.
Zambians are really getting tired and their patience wears thin of hearing excuses every now and then.
When the team failed to beat Algeria to brighten their chances of qualifying for the AFCON finals, excuses were given of how Micho did not start the race with the team.
At the CHAN final tournament, expectations were high for the team to perform better but alas, Zambia failed to show any character and in the quarterfinals they were taught a humbling lesson by Morocco who ultimately retained their title.
Lessons have been repeatedly acknowledged with every loss or setback we have endured over the last year but we have continued to stare motionlessly at a drawing board where a eureka moment is nowhere to be seen.
Now, unless there would be a big improvement in the remaining matches to miraculously see Zambia in the semifinals, it seems hopes of the 2012 AFCON kings glory days are far from making a return and the sooner Micho’s paymasters realizes this the better going forward.
Otherwise it will be one excuse after another static statement of keeping what is good and discarding what is bad while Zambia football continues to plunge into oblivion and then plunge into the abyss.
Mind you, if the team cannot win at COSAFA level, then how do we expect them to challenge at continental level and later on at World Cup level?
It is high time a lot of seriousness is attached at national team level starting from team selection and help save the nation from unnecessary embarrassment.
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