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Tactical Analysis: How the Chipolopolo failed to fire against Sudan

Ernest Mbewe goes down under a challenge from Uganda defender in a game Zambia won 3 - 1 at the 2018 CHAN tournament

Just like two Years ago, Zambia was bundled out of the CHAN tournament at the Quarter final stage, a campaign that promised much from the qualifiers has ended up with nothing but just one extra game after the group stages.

Going into the tournament, despite the changes in personnel of those that had played key roles in qualifiers there was still enough in the team to go all the way to the final 90+ minutes of the last match at the tournament especially that the composition had 8 players that played ‘A’ grade matches for Zambia in the World and Africa Cup qualifiers.

Here is how the exit unfolded.


As was in the group stage games, Zambia adopted the Zonal Marking system in general match progression and at set pieces.

In the heart of defense, debutant John Mwangeni was the main marker on their main striker with Ziyo Tembo providing cover and any of the 2 full backs providing balance as and when required.

The defenders accounted for themselves well in most patches but when it mattered most, they were taken to the cleaners. Many will remember Sudan goal keeper Akram for saving Chris Katongo’s penalty in the Quarter finals of the 2012 Afcon and he will still linger on in their memories as he picked out a striker with a long launch from the back who flicked it on to striker Safeldein who skinned John Mwangeni and  sliding past him almost effortlessly to pass the ball into the net under Toaster Nsabata’s feet.

Ziyo would have been much closer considering there was only one Sudanese striker in the Box.

The centre back pairing seemed not to be in sync with communication visibly poor.

Realising the Sudanese were going to employ the long ball tactic, Zambia could have chosen to do one all possibly all of the following;

1. Prevent the long ball upfront

2. Win the second ball after a Knock Down


Poor by any standard. From the first game, we demonstrated that our strength was in the wingers and we relied on their industry to create going forward.

Sudan did their home work correctly and it ripped benefits by doing the following;

1. They shut down the supply to the wide areas in their own half.

2. Stationed their full backs in their sockets and had wingers going with Ernest Mbewe and Augustine Mulenga everywhere so our wingers didn’t have chance on the ball.

3. Shut down channels for possible through balls.

Zambia offered little going forward as the attack strategy was paralised.

Wing play couldn’t work and similarly route one football couldn’t work due to the Sudanese aerial advantage.

The game was calling for at least one creative ball carrier to push the team up and negotiate the crowded central areas and the ably protected goal scoring area.

Additionally, the ball circulation should have been more quicker and crisp to knock them out of their defensively sockets and force them into running around.

The Chipolopolo passing was erratic and exposed the lack of variety.

Clearly Zambia did not have an alternative approach and couldn’t offer anything else apart from what the opponents already knew.


Players are not Robots and in games of high stakes must be willing to give a little more in terms of invention and extra effort.

Similarly they ought to continue believing and do what it takes.

It’s in games like that were others have gone down in history books by taking it a notch higher and throwing caution to the wind.


What worked before couldn’t work on the night. This was clearly from as early as first quarter of an hour into the game but his side didn’t show much to try and change the status quo at that time.

Go to the poll section to make your opinion known on whether Wada Wada is the right man for the Chipolopolo job

Together with the experienced panel of assistants, the famous ‘PLAN B’ should have been summoned be it with personnel or approach.

Against a team that predominantly had one centre forward, the team could have sacrificed much more to aid the ambition going forward by introducing attack minded players earlier when we had a game to chase.

The problem was not the strikers, it was creation of chances and that should have been taken care of before changing striking options. The gun didn’t have safety on, it was the bullets that were lacking.

Losing at the Quarter final stages may be bitter but the same players that got us there were still good enough to take us further and talk of those that were not there is unappreciative of those whose excursions got us this far.

All Factors considered, the team had a poor day at the office and we lost it due to Technical application inefficiency and Tactical nous deficiencies.

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