THREE goals in a space of eight minutes by South Africa was enough to shatter Zambia’s dream of booking a place at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil and break the 27- year dry spell.
Zambia yesterday lost 3-2 to South Africa in a Group A second match at the on-going Caf Under-23 Africa Nations tournament played at Léopold Sédar Senghor stadium in Dakar, Senegal.
The junior Chipolopolo opened the score in the 34th minute with teen striker Conlyde Luchanga’s beautiful volley from inside the box.
Zambia continued to search for a second goal but produced blank shots on target with the half time ending in their favour.
But it was a different and shocking story in the final half, as the tables turned in favour of South Africa who equalised in the 46th minute through a close range shot by Menzi Masuk.
Zambia’s defenders focused on raising their hands for a hand ball while Masuk found the back of the net. Immediately, Zambia’s defence became porous and South Africa was determined to make use of the opportunity.
Gift Motupu was South Africa’s hero after he scored a brace in the 51st and 53rd minute and reviving their hopes for Rio qualification after crashing 3-1 to hosts Senegal in the first game on Saturday.
Benedict Chepeshi and Boyd Mkandwire literally escorted Motupu to his triumph while Nsabata was in panic mode.
However, Billy Mutale revived Zambia’s fighting spirit in the 72nd minute when he scored from inside the box to give the junior Chipolopolo their second goal. Zambia seemingly woke up from slumber and piled on the pressure, but South Africa would not crumble.
South Africa changed their tactical approach and packed themselves at the back to ensure Zambia did not equalise.
The match kicked off on a fast note but both teams did not have clear chances in the 15 minutes of play.
South Africa could have opened the scores in the 25th minute but Nsabata was equal to the task.
Chepeshi produced a long range shot but was parried over the bar by South Africa goal minder Jody February.
In the 29th minute, midfielder Abbubaker Mobara sent a scare to Zambia with his free kick cleared off the line.
Coach Fighton Simukonda substituted Ronald Kampamba and Kayawe Kapota for Friday Samu and Salulani Phiri respectively.
However, the changes could not bring desirable fruits with Zambia booted out of the championship.
Zambia last competed at the Olympics in 1988 in South Korea where she walloped Italy 4-0 with FAZ president Kalusha Bwalya scoring a hat-trick.
Hosts Senegal was yesterday scheduled to face Tunisia with both sides sharing three points apiece. South Africa now has three points.
Zambia will this Saturday play her final game of pride against Senegal.