Zimbabwe Under-23 coach Friday Phiri and his Zambian counterpart Lucky Msiska believe the tie is still open after the Young Warriors’ 2–3 victory over the more-fancied Young Chipolopolo of Zambia in the All-Africa Games preliminary round soccer qualifier first leg encounter played in Lusaka last Saturday.
Shooting Stars star striker Simba Sithole scored a brace and Dynamos’ Denver Mukamba scored the third.
The Young Chipolopolo, who had seven foreign-based players in their starting line-up, scored their two goals through striker Kangwa Chileshe and captain Fwayo Tembo, who plays for FC Basel in Switzerland.
The Young Warriors will now fancy their chances of qualifying for the next round of the competition when the two teams meet in the reverse fixture in a fortnight at Rufaro Stadium.
The winner of the encounter advances into the first round of the qualifiers to meet either Angola or South Africa. Despite the sweet victory that virtually put his side in the driving seat, Phiri is still cautious.
“Chances are still the same, the Zambians are a good side, and they can still turn the tables,” Phiri said.
Phiri also had positive news on Sithole who was pulled off at half-time with a groin problem.
Zambian coach Msiska, who had to be escorted back to the dressing room as fans were baying for his blood, conceded that his side was outplayed, but believes his team has an equally good chance when they travel Harare.
“The opposition was very convincing, we never anticipated that they play that kind of football, they were the far better side,” admitted the Young Chipolopolo coach who was forced to make three changes in the first half as the Young Warriors ran rampage.
It will be a big mountain to climb for Msiska if the Zimbabwe team can replicate half of the faultless performance they displayed in Lusaka.
l Meanwhile, four Under-23 players who were part of the victorious squad against Zambia in an All-Africa Games qualifier on Saturday, will join the Warriors camp today as preparations for the African Nations Championships gather momentum.
The Under-23 side, coached Friday Phiri who is also an assistant to senior team caretaker coach Madinda Ndlovu, beat Zambia 2-3 in the first leg.
Strikers Simba Sithole and Denver Mukamba, goalkeeper Arial Sibanda and leftback Qadr Amini were given an off day yesterday after arriving late from Lusaka, while the fifth player Joel Ngodzo is still in Bulawayo.
The rest of the team had a morning training session at Rufaro and another in the afternoon at the same venue as they start their preparations in earnest.
These included the new Highfield United duo of Benjamin Marere and Washington Arubi, Tafadzwa Dube, Timothy Sibanda and his Hwange counterpart David Boriwondo.
Other players in camp include Guthrie Zhokinyi, Daniel Vheremu, Gilbert Mapemba, Charles Chiutsa, Abbas Amidu and Isaac Madziva.
“The turnout is wonderful, everybody is here. Basically the first day is about the response from the players although we did also train in the morning.
“Tomorrow (today) we will be joined by the Young Warriors players and everything will be in full swing,” Ndlovu said.
Without a friendly match to prepare the team, the Warriors technical department has hinted they will play preparatory matches against the Under-23s who are preparing for the Zambia return or Champions League debutantes Motor Action.
They play neighbours South Africa, Niger and Ghana in the group stages of the competition that runs from February 4-25 in Sudan.
This is Zimbabwe’s second appearance in the competition after failing to reach the last four in the debut in Ivory Coast in 2009 after three draws against eventual champions the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Burkina Faso.