THE Zambia national soccer team’s failure to beat Niger on Saturday is disappointing, veteran soccer analyst Reuben Kamanga has said.
Kamanga said the scoreless draw has put the Chipolopolos who are also the 2012 Afcon champions, in an awkward position.
Speaking when he featured on ZNCB’s Radio 4 sports programme, Kamanga said the Chipolopolo technical bench had no excuse for Zambia’s failure to beat Niger.
“It was a must-win game for the national team. Niger is not a strong side. It should have been a walkover game,” he said.
The draw means Zambia is still third in Group F of their 2015 Africa Cup qualifiers with two points, at par with Niger.
Both sides blew hot and cold in the opening 45 minutes on a day that Mozambique made great headways with a 2-0 home win over leaders Cape Verde. The Mambas are now second place and have given Niger and Zambia some homework in their remaining three games.
During the match on Saturday, Niger made a blistering start, camping inside Zambia’s half for the opening 10 minutes.
Despite their domination, the Menas were goal-shy except for a cross which was palmed away by Kennedy Mweene in the 5th minute.
Five minutes later James Chamanga failed to put his head to midfielder Rainford Kalaba’s cross inside the box before it was cleared back into play.
Zambia’s confidence grew thereafter and in the 14th minute Chisamba Lungu whipped in a cross for Chamanga who nodded the ball marginally wide.
Niger’s only other chance on goal in the first half came in the 20th minute when Musa Cisse beat Emmanuel Mbola, but his subsequent shot did very little to bother Mweene.
The game then lost steam with both sides showing appetite for goals.
Both teams then produced episodes of desperation in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Niger were first in the 52nd minute when their cry for a handball appeal was rightly ignored after a chested clearance by Nyambe Mulenga.
A minute later, Given Singuluma sent his shot off the far post after a neat move with his TP Mazembe clubmate Kalaba.
Then Zambia defender Christopher Munthali in the 56th minute left Zambians in a state of panic when a back pass forced Mweene to go into over -drive to clear it.
Mweene again saved the day in the 71st minute when Ali Mohamed beat Munthali and Kabaso Chongo but the Mamelodi Sundowns stopper showed his class at point blank range.
Niger then had themselves to blame in the 89th minute after two players got into each other way off a set piece with Mweene beaten.
Meanwhile, Zambia must now beat Niger on Wednesday in Ndola to stay in the race for qualification
Niger and Zambia have two points in third place, three behind Mozambique on five points while Cape Verde lead on six points.