By NDINAWE SIMPELWE –
THE Zambia Under-17 girls team today begin their quest to return to the World Cup when they host neighbours Botswana in the Uruguay 2018 preliminary round first leg tie at Nkoloma Stadium.
Zambia defied all odds in 2014 by qualifying to the World Cup held in Costa Rica but were eliminated without winning a match but will seek an instant return.
Coach Kaluba Kangwa has been tasked with the responsibility to ensure the team books a place at the World Cup and will look to a convincing win in the first leg to make the return leg easier in two weeks time.
Kangwa declared his side ready and expressed confidence that Zambia was too for Botswana despite having Rhoda Kanika ruled out and two players on the injury list.
He said precedent of qualifying to the World Cup had already been set and it would be important to be consistent and continue competing at the highest level.
The coach will have to do without Rhoda Kanika who has been out ruled out of the game.
“The girls have been very impressive in training and we are ready for the match. We have to win it at all cost because a precedent was set in 2014,” he said.
But Botswana coach Tapahiwa Gaebolae warned that her side was not in Zambia to make up number but to compete and get a win.
Gaebolae, while acknowledging that Botswana had a bad record against Zambia, was determined to break records adding that there would be nothing to stop her girls from getting a positive result.
“We have come to win this game and we will not be intimidated by the hosts despite them having a better record than us when it comes to head to heads,” she said.
Kangwa may use Emeldah Chewe in goal with Rhoda Nakanyika and Diana Banda starting in central defence but Rosemary Nyirongo, Margaret Bwalya and Lillian Kunda are all available for selection to help out at the back.
In midfield, Pauline Chanda and Samone Phiri look set to be the engine of the team while Mercy Nthala and Janet Kazila may start in the wings and for goals, Zambia will look to Lydia Mubanga and Loveness Malunga.
Winner after the two legs will face South Africa in the first round of the qualifiers.
The winner of the Zambia versus Botswana/South Africa tie would play the victor between Morocco and Equatorial Guinea for a place at the finals set for November 13 to December 1.