From FELIX MALUNGA
In Tibas, Costa Rica
Zambia 2 Costa Rica 1-
ZAMBIA secured a comeback victory over hosts, Costa Rica at the Estadio Saprissa Ayma yesterday to sign off from their debut FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup appearance on high.
With the home side enjoying massive support from a loud crowd, Zambia, who like Costa Rica were knocked out of the competition after losing the first two Group A games, responded positively and managed to collect their maiden points in a FIFA women’s tournament.
The victory saw Zambia finish third in Group A on three points behind eventual winners, Venezuela, who beat runners-up Italy 1-0. Italy plays Ghana in the quarter-finals.
Desperate to get a consolation win at home, Costa Rica deservedly took a third minute lead through Sofia Varela, who finished with a through ball from skipper, Gloriana Villalobos.
The Zambian lasses re-organised themselves and hit back five minutes later when Grace Chanda glanced home a Barbara Banda cross, silencing the partisan crowd.
Catastrophe hit the Zambian team on 15 minutes when Helen Chanda got a heavy blow to the head and was replaced by Memory Phiri.
Albert Kachinga’s charges almost grabbed the lead on 25 minutes through Barbara Banda, who made a dazzling run in the box but her final effort was blocked by Costa Rica goalkeeper, Yolian Salas. Banda was denied a brace four minutes into the break after hitting the woodwork.
La Ticas were more forceful in the second half and dominated the opening 10 minutes but without success in front of goal.
But a wasteful Phiri, who had what seemed like a golden opportunity to put the junior She-polopolo ahead, blasted high a sitter from enterprising Banda’s well-calculated pass on 61 minutes.
Zambia’s resilience finally paid off on 69 minutes when a horrendous miss by La Ticas goalkeeper Salas, who failed to clear a defensive pass from Maria Araya, allowing the ball to easily roll into the net as an own goal.
Janny Mubanga, a stoppage time replacement for Phiri, almost doubled Zambia’s advantage with her first touch but the upright came to the rescue of the Costa Ricans.
Player of the Match, Martha Tembo, who finished the game with an ankle injury, marshalled the Zambian backline well, keeping the rampaging La Ticas at bay.
After the match, frustrated Costa Rican fans hurled abuse at their coach, Juan Diego Quesada and called for his dismissal for failing the Central American nation.
Kachinga was ecstatic with the result and praised his charges for winding up their tour of duty with a victory over the hosts.
“This is great success for the girls and this should inspire them to work hard,” he said.