Zambia U23 faces Egypt in crucial AFCON qualifier

Zambia: The Zambia U23 National Team enters the last hurdle in their quest to be at the TotalEnergies U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Morocco 2023 with a first-leg last-round tie against Egypt at the 30 June Stadium in Cairo at 18h00.

The Osward Mutapa tutored side will be looking for a positive result away from home to make the return leg at home in Ndola less complicated. Mutapa and the squad know the task at hand is not an easy undertaking, but they promised to give their best performance tonight.

The team left for Lusaka last week Thursday and had a short camp in Niger where they played a friendly match with that country which ended in a scoreless draw, but Mutapa picked a lot of positives from it.

Mutapa has observed Egypt plays a tight game and wins by narrow margins, especially when playing at home. “We have looked at their statistics of the games they have played at home. I think they won narrowly by a goal. But if we are able to defend solidly, we can’t concede. They are equally a good team, good movements going forward,” Mutapa said.

Mutapa has made it clear that he wants his charges to keep a clean sheet tonight, which gives the defence anchored by Nchanga Rangers skipper Mathews Chabala an overtime shift to protect goalkeeper Francis Mwansa.

Gift Mphande and Happy Nsiku are other options Mutapa has in defence that can help keep the clean sheet. Zambia has an abundance of quality in the midfield, with the Europe-based duo of Miguel Chaiwa and Mannah Chiwisa adding on to the likes of Joshua Mutale and Patrick Gondwe.

In attack, Mutapa gets to pick among the striker’s Jimmy Mukeya, Andrew Phiri, Enock Sakala and Ricky Banda, all of who are capable of doing the job.

Zambia reached the final stage of the qualifiers after beating Sierra Leone 2-1 on aggregate after forcing a 1-1 draw away before sealing the victory at home in Lusaka. Egypt, on the other hand, drew scoreless away with Leostho before edging them 1-0 at home.

The 2023 Africa Cup will also be used as a qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympics, where the top three teams will book an automatic qualification.

Amelia Jones

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