By Gilbert Phiri
A disciplined and tactical containment of Senegal by Zambia was clearly the script from the coach Herve Renard to his charges, and boy was it employed with military precision! Even after going ahead 2-0 at half-time, Chipolopolo did not lose the tactical discipline of containing the imagined attacking potency of the Senegalese. The urge to open up the game was resisted. Caution was the theme. The theatrics of an animated Reanrd on the touchline added to the tension.
Keeping it tight in a packed Zambian midfield was clearly another of the technical bench’s sub-plots. He employed Nathan Sinkala, Francis Kasonde and Isaac Chansa mainly on midfield defensive duties, with Kasonde sitting in front of the two giant defensive pillars in Stophila Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde. There was hardly any overlapping by the wing backs, Chisamba Lungu and Joseph Musonda, as is usually the case. Chipolopolo was determined not to lose the game at all costs
Thank God that the much touted and anticipated striking threat of the Senegalese forwards ended up as a damp squib. The heavy-legged defence of Senegal was a disjointed circus in the first half and their attempts at holding a high defensive line so as to catch Zambia off-side was a tactical failure. Zambia’s attackin trio of Rainford Kalaba, Christopher Katongo and Emmanuel Mayuka proved too quick for them. That Kalaba is the star in this Chipolopolo team was underlined by a stupendous display in the first half. He combined superbly with Mayuka and Katongo. His energy levels seemed to drop in the second half and when he put his foot off the pedal, Zambia’s forward play suffered
It was lovely watching Mayuka’s display. He has added muscle to his game and he did not fail in his hustling duties. He can shoot with both feet and is quite good in the air. He repaid the coach’s faith in starting him when he delightfully sprung up in the Senegalese box to skillfully knock in the opener. His combination with a fully fit Utrecht striker, Jacob Mulenga might improve the prospects of Zambia making a maiden appearance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Of course not all was rosy in Zambia’s play. Isaac Chansa seemed off the pace and his passing was a bit disappointing at times. Joseph Musonda did not seem fully fit. He was not as mobile as his usual self. Chisamba Lungu held his own but it was clear that defending is not his natural ability, he was culpable for giving too much leg-room to the Senegalese forward to score his team’s lone goal. Nathan Sinkala’s inexperience at this level showed. That he could be Zambia’s solution of a holding midfielder, in the long term, was evident in the first half with his making some intelligent blocks and attempting some tame shots at goal. However, his distribution of the ball will have to improve. His passing was often misplaced thereby allowing the Senegalese to pile pressure on the Zambian defence. Kennedy Mweene’s decision making in goal is sometimes worrisome. One can only wonder why he sometimes leaves his box, as he dangerously did on two occasions. He will no doubt be severely censured by the technical bench to quit embarking on these senseless frolics. However, on the night, he dealt with most dangerous threats admirably
The Man of the Match award should go to Stophila Sunzu for a very combative and assured display both on land and air. He, together with Hichani Himoonde, kept the “dangerous” Senegalese strikers quiet. He gave an important headed assist to Mayuka for Zambia’s opening goal. He was Zambia’s most outstanding performer on the night.
Lastly, it is refreshing to have a coach like Renard whose desire to win is unmasked. He does not bother sitting on the bench. He is forever barking instructions to his players. He is a refreshing change from the usual slothful and chair-bound tacticians that Chipolopolo has had the misfortune of having.