Junior Chipolopolo through to semis
The Zambia under 17 men's national football team qualified for the semifinals as Group A runners-up at the ongoing Zone VI Games after they were held to a goalless draw by Malawi in a match played on a soggy pitch at Sunset Stadium on Wednesday.
With Paul Phiri and skipper Langson Mbewe not available due to suspension and injury respectively, coach Oswald Mutapa made only two changes to the starting line up that was held to a goalless draw by South Africa on Monday.
The replacements for the unavailable players in the starting eleven were Ulia Jonathan Phiri and Kingsley Mukuka. Ulia partnered Kayawe Kapota in defence while Mukuka started on the right
wing in a 4-5-1 formation that had Patrick Ngoma as the lone striker.
Although the match lacked goal mouth action both teams had chances to break the deadlock.
The first chance came Zambia's way in the 24th minute when George Mandu's goal bound free kick from 25 metres was saved by Malawi goalkeeper Dalitso Makunganya. In the 32nd minute Spencer Sautu was put through on goal from a cross by Kingsley Mukuka but his first touch was poor and the execution even more so.
Sautu was to be involved again two minutes later and this time his effort from the heart of the area was saved by Makunganya from point blank range.
The Malawians had their own chances too. Wongani Kuchisanja had a chance to break the deadlock in the 27th minute after he was put through by Festus Chikwezga but his effort from close range went over the crossbar.
Dimunitive winger Festus Chikwezga also went close just before the break after he skillfully got the better of Tom Sakala and Ulia Phiri but his effort hit the side netting.
In the second half, Mutapa withdrew Kingsley Mukuka and brought on defensive midfielder Peter Mwanalushi to partner Juma Mutale in a move that almost backfired as the former failed to impose himself on the game and was later withdrawn for a more attack minded forward in Alfred Mafuleka.
In a post match interview with fazfootball.com coach Oswald Mutapa maintained that the junoir Chipolopolo would win gold.
"In 2008 we won bronze, in 2010 we won Silver so in 2012 and playing on home soil, we must win gold," he said.
Malawi Team Manager Frank Manda said his team had put up a gallant fight and did not deserve to be eliminated.
"We played well and took the game to Zambia. This was like a final for both teams and although there were no goals it was very entertaining. If Zambia continue to play like they did today they will win gold," said Manda.
South Africa finished as Group A leaders with ten points after they defeated already eliminated Seychelles 4-1 at Nkoloma Stadium. In second place Zambia finished the group stage with eight points while third placed Malawi were a point adrift. Botswana finished in fourth position with three points while bottom placed Seychelles were eliminated without registering any points.
In Group B, Namibia who were leading the standings before the last round of matches got eliminated after Lesotho and Angola won their respective matches on Wednesday.
Lesotho finished as group leaders with eight points after they defeated Swaziland 4-0 at Nkoloma Stadium. Lesotho's goals were scored by Mpho Makhaola, Tokelo Majoro and second half substitute Morapeli Lesoetsa who bagged a brace.
Angola's passage was ensured with seven points after a 2-0 win over Mauritius at Sunset Stadium. Celestino Cassida scored both goals in the second half.
Third placed Namibia who were undefeated went home with six points after managing to win only once and drawing three matches. They were joined on the eliminated list by Swaziland and Mauritius who finished with three and two points respectively.