FIFA U20 World Cup: Zambia must dig for gold
By Coach Franklyn Malambo
In the lead up to the U20 AfCON it was common to hear chants of Cup Isale, Cup Niyatu, Our land our Cup and the like.
A few months on and a day before the kick off of the main show for the U20 most fans don’t seem as buoyant as before and seem to have weighed down their expectations to a mere ‘boys must do well’.
What then will qualify to be a ‘well’ performance. My view is to do better than the classes of 1999 & 2007 by reaching the Semi finals and capping it off with a win in the finals.
Winning at such a high level requires a combination of many factors among them collective belief and effort, individual brilliance, clarity in execution demands, positive response to pressure and most importantly the two main pillars for performance-body fitness and mind/mental preparedness.
The preparations put in place have ensured that the lads are well prepared physically and from what we have seen since the COSAFA championship, Africa Cup of Nations tournament and the Adidas invitational tournament which was played in South Korea the lads always seem well psyched and ready to battle.
What then equips these boys to be able to dig for gold in Korea?
They may all be new at the World Cup but most of the lads in the team have valuable experience gained from playing in international age restricted tournaments,playing for their local clubs and for some the time spent with the senior national team.
The team has only lost twice in the last 12 months with both losses coming outside major competitions one against Barcelona B side and the other against South Korea at the invitational tournament.
On this background the lads are riding on high confidence in their abilities and those of the technical bench to be able to strategize in any given condition be it to escape from defeat and earn a draw, convert a draw into a win and apply game management measures as and when needed to.
Key to any championship winning team is how well the players understand each other,each other’s game,weaknesses and strengths both as a team and individuals. This team has been together for a long time and have developed brotherly and professional bonds on and off the pitch. Everyone is willing to fight for the other.
FREE SCORING / STABLE DEFENSE
This team scores goals for fun and always looks to play on the front foot with a lot of enterprise going forward and rarely play negative football. There are a lot of scorers in the team and anyone can pop up with a goal. The team has a very
Good chance to goal conversion ratio as has been proven in their exertions in the last 12 months.
On the other hand the defense has looked decent and less troubled despite at times being heavily exposes chiefly owing to the way the midfield is set up to be anchored by one who is also expected to make forward forays. Winning tournaments requires scoring and avoiding conceding equal or more than what you score. Our strikers are generous and the defense not so generous.
What makes a team win and always stand a chance to win is their ability to respond to the different shifts in passages and patterns of play that are employed by the opposition as well as always looking to play to own strengths and always look to gain an advantage. Tactics involve knowing what to do, when to do it, how to do it, who to do it, where to to it in relation to the position of the ball at a particular time.
The team looks agile enough and denies space when off the ball and looks to create space when on the ball. Depending on the progression of matches how quick the team will respond to situations as individuals and as a collective will go a long way in securing victories.
Apart from the Zambians who are resident in Korea, those that will travel for the showpiece, Africans in that land and those that love pleasing football the lads should have won over a considerable number of local fans in Jeju following their endeavors in the invitational tournament. Fans are always a driving force and part of every successful team. Stadiums may not be filled with thousands that pledge allegiance to Zambia as may have been at National heroes some months ago but those that will be there will be a huge factor.
With the Belief and trust that the technical bench has worked on the loop holes observed during the AfCON and the last trip to Korea, there is reason to be expectant of more from this team.
Motivation should also come from the knowledge that all eyes will be on the showpiece and as players play for contracts they should give it their all. Ghana under Salas Teteh went all the way in 2009 tournament and it should be further testament that with right planning, preparation and application everything is possible. A Marko Grujic inspired Serbia won it last time out but the holders did not qualify so it is begging for new winners and those that are hungry enough to go for it.
This is what dreams are made of, part 1 was done in Lusaka and part 2 must be completed in Seoul.
The lads must remember they are not there to participate but compete,not there to play but challenge and stand up to be counted. With the amount of effort that has been put up to reach us this far and all factors considered the lads have enough equipment to dig for Gold.
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