By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka – Zambian President Edgar Lungu has congratulated the country’s Under-23 national soccer team after the team qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt by beating Congo Republic in a qualifying match in Brazzaville last weekend.
“Let me congratulate our gallant boys who have qualified for the finals,” President Lungu said.
The Junior Chipolopolo beat Congo 5-4 in a two-legged qualifier. The boys narrowly won 2-1 in Lusaka a week ago and drew 3-3 in Congo’s capital, Brazzaville last Sunday.
“That is the team that the country is proud of. There are some great talents in that team,” said Lungu.
In the first encounter in Lusaka, Zambia, having summoned key players who ply their trade in Europe, got the better of Congo when European based-striker Fashion Sakala scored a brace. Zambia had taken a 1-0 lead in the half time through Sakala’s 7th minute close range tap-in after being set up by his team mate, Patson Daka.
Congo leveled through a header poked in by Jacques Temopele seconds into the second half. Sakala later eased pressure on Zambia when striking the winner a minute away from time after benefiting from Harrison Chisala’s short pass.
Wasteful Zambia could have beaten Congo by a higher margin as Sakala and Daka were culprits, missing numerous chances in both halves. The second leg on September 8 in Pointe Noir saw the two teams emerge 3-3 at full time.
The results then saw Zambia lift the day on a 5-4 aggregate and qualified for the Afcon to be held in Egypt. Enoch Mwepu and Patson Daka, both plying their football professional career at Red Bull Salzburg in Europe, scored vital goals to earn the Dream Team a 3-3 draw against Congo.
The junior squad is commonly known for their spiritual belief dubbed ‘Bola na Lesa’ (football with God).
The final three teams at the Egypt U23 Afcon finals will automatically qualify to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Zambia last participated at the Olympics in 1988.