Brian Mulenga wrote;
Looking at his starting line up one wondered whether Zambia was playing the almighty France or Brazil. Here he was deploying a two defensive double pivot against an opponent who deployed a 5 man midfield !!!
He also took time to realise that only wing play was going to unlock the crowded central midfield.
Namibia pressed well and chased every ball in the center it was crowded as hell with no one able to put together a series of passes because 10 players from both Zambia and Namibia were compressed into one third of the pitch.
The game turned on one decision and no it was not the decision to put on Mwepu. It was the Namibian decision to go for broke and open up the game by introducing two attackers. That changed everything and allowed the superior skills of the Zambian players to come to bear.
It was a close run thing though with Namibia almost immediately stretching the the slow ponderous center back paring of Sunzu and Chongo after a mistake in midfield by Sinkala. It was the first time for me to see an allegedly international class center back staying rooted to the spot and fail to give chase when a speedy passing interchange left him stranded. The very least you would expect would be for Sunzu to chase back instead of becoming a decorative statue on the pitch.
However the genie was out of the bottle and the game had opened up.
My fear however was Sven’s strategy. How do you play with the handbrake on ? We were in Namibia to win and not to eke out a draw.
Even more scary is the lack of development of our much launded under 20 stars. The two Sakala’s Solomon and Fashion. Solomon Sakala produced a full back performance dating back to the 1970s when fullbacks only defended and were expected to hoof the ball up the field if they got it.
Zambia has always had ball playing fullbacks who could attack all the way back to the days of Edward Musonda, Kaiser Kalambo, Edwin Mbaso, Kapambwe Mulenga, John Kalusa and so on. It is nothing new in football back then we called them overlapping fullbacks.
Instead we got Solomon Sakala. Playing football like a 14 year old fullbakc at interhouse football. No intelligence, zero passing skill, alwasy putting Mweene in trouble with backpasses that were badly judged always bringing attacks to a screching halt because of his inability to become the extra man on the flank. Not a single cross emanated from the fullback. In modern football a genuine mystery !!! I was watching football archaelogy at work here. A real 1970s fullback with zero attacking capability and no football IQ.
Then there was Fashion Sakala. Parading himself like a player playing Airtel Rising Stars instead of a senior international player. Deployed wide, he too failed to deliver a single cross in the box of any kind. Instead he reminded me of schoolboy football. Every team in my schoolboy playing days had a so called best player. A dribbler. Who invariably beat one, two or three players and then lost the ball. Fashion Sakala plays like he is still 14 and still in Eastern Province. After all the coaching at Nchanga Rangers, ZANACO, Spartak and now Ostende it seems tactical concepts and situational awareness do not exist in his mind. His idea of being a forward is to get the ball and dribble. Aimlessly. Head down. Without looking at where his team mates are, without seeing his opponents. Namibia had never been given a better gift.
The Sven really outdid himself. He put a double pivot made up of Nathan Sinkala and Salulani Phiri to guard the defense. Two players who only know how to lay off the ball five meters to the next guy. Two players who are battlers. Sinkala is better than Salulani and is less foul prone. So with a crowded central midfield and two players who only pass five meters in any direction, Naimbia had a field day.
Rainford Kalaba had an OK game. He actually had a hand in three goal scoring opportunities that were created. He was the only player before Mwepu came on who had a good idea of what it took to unlock the crowded midfield. He is not as fast as he used to be but he still has a fine footballing mind. His quick sliding passes into the channel behind the Namibian defence were pearls cast before swine, they were wasted by players lacking imaginatiion or poor finishing ability.
Enock Mwepu brought an urgency and pace to the midfield that was lacking.. Whether he would have been able to unlock the logjam that Namibia had erected is debatable. Namibia had pressed well and worked like a unit. When they went for broke, which was always a gamble, they opened up the game for a player like Mwepu. For me Kalaba and Mwepu or Cletus Chama and Mwepu with the single defensive pivot behind them of Sinkala or Salulani would have been a far better option and would have been of better service to the forward line.
Augustine Mulenga was not fit. Pressed into action because his speed and persistence was what was needed to break open the Namibian barrier in midfield, he should not have stayed on the pitch. In my opinion Spencer Sautu or Lubamabo Musonda should have started in his place. Spencer is an all action dynamo and a fighter.
Patson Daka was the only ex Under-20 player on the pitch who played to an international standard. Brave, resourceful and Indefatigable Daka ran like he had three lungs and two hearts. Played upfront alone he caused so much trouble for the Namibian defence but was a bit lightweight. Only Kalaba seemed to understand what he was trying to do. His marvellous snapshot despite being covered by a defender forced a save from the Namibian keeper. Daka deserved a goal.
My formation instead of Sven’s defensive 4-2-3-1 would have put out a 4-1-3-2. A proper atatcking fullback and not the fossil from the 1970s Solomon Sakala. Nathan Sinkala as the defenisve pivot. Sautu (Lubambo) , Mwepu, Kalaba (Cletus CHama) in midfield and upfront Shonga and Daka.
In my opinion Fashion Sakaal should stay in Europe. He needs coaching. Solomon Sakala should be brought up to date on the duties of a modern full back.
Lawrence CHungu, Chongo and SUnzu did alright. At least CHungu knew what to do when his team attacked and was able to provide the extra man on the flank.
Sven needs to wake up. He has notihing to defend. Zambia needs to win to qualify to the AFCON. Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Namibia are not Brazil or France to setup defensive shell like formattions for !!!