WHAT a run by the Zambia under-20!
It all started with lifting the regional COSAFA Junior Challenge in South Africa where they were unbeaten, winning the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) here at home as fans parked the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka to the rafters rooting them on. And now they have the whole country cultivated with the historical qualification to the quarterfinals of the 2017 FIFA World Cup in Korea.
This is no doubt something special but let me rain on your parade with some home truths. As good and exhilarating as the team come backs have been, there lays the potential banana peel at this stage of the competition because teams have now dissected our game and they may not be able to turn it round especially against a tactically astute side like the Azzurini.
The African champions are stacked with attacking talent and they are irresistible going forward but they have shown defensive frailty each passing game and coach Beston Chambeshi has done little to address this problem.
The under-20 defense looked unsure even during the AFCON but were compensated by defensive tactics teams deployed against them but struggled against Amajita who played an open game without fear in the semi finals. You all remember you sitting on the edge of your seats as that central defensive pairing of Moses Nyondo and Solomon Sakala was all over the place.
They have conceded seven goals this far in the tournament and this cannot just be for the defenders. The whole team which has been praised for their team spirit need to show it in defending. Our full backs like to venture forward and leave spaces behind and our central defenders do not like being dragged into these pockets. The results were silly penalties conceded by clumsy challenges in the Costa Rica game.
Again Chambeshi failed to help the lads against Germany when leading 3-1 and time was expiring. These are young players and at this stage they get blood rush to their heads seeing the headlines before the game was put to bed. They were booming forward in numbers instead of shutting shop and holding off the Germans who deliberately played that game at a slow pace until in extra time.
Then in added time and they were still leading 3-2 and Chambeshi still had two substitutions available and seeing his boys struggling under pressure from the Germans, he could not come to the rescue of his boys who went to concede the third goal with seconds left to send the game to extra time.
That was totally avoidable with good game management by the bench that is the reason the buck stops at Chambeshi and his technical bench.
Sometimes the team looks like a one trick pony as they lack plan B if things do not go their way. That is the duty of the fellows sitting in that dugout to find another way of winning. They say offense wins you games but defense wins you championships.
About time the team avoids going behind early and shore up the backline as the country expects. Chambeshi needs to man up and make those difficult decisions during games to stop the bleeding.
Good luck lads Cup Ibwele!
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