LUSAKA, Mar 30 - The Zambia under-23 team yesterday failed to make it to the Olympic Games when they went down 2-0 to Ghana in Kumasi in their last qualifying match.
Zambia only needed a draw to make it to Athens after a 16-year absence from the games.
The team's defeat was their first in Group D since October 26 last year when Algeria beat them 1-0 in the side's opening pool tie played in Annaba.
Ghana surged ahead in the 25th minute through midfielder Abubakar Yahuza of Ghanaian top club side King Faisal who scored his second ever goal against Zambia.
Yahuza's first goal came six months ago in the two sides' 2-2 draw in an All Africa Games 3rd and 4th place playoff on October 15 when he scored a 16th minute opener.
But Zambia surely feel hard-done because they had a Felix Katongo goal deep into extra time of the first half disallowed for offside.
The Peter Kaumba drilled squad pressured after the break refusing to roll over and die but Ghana stood their ground, backed by tremendous home support.
Ghana sealed their win and ticket to Athens in the 82nd minute through another King Faisal player, this time striker Kwado Poku who scored his third goal of the qualifiers.
FAZ president Teddy Mulonga said the team tried its best but was unfortunate to miss qualification.
"That's football. The boys tried their best. Home ground games are very tight games," said Mulonga.
"We have to build on that. We are going to continue building."
Soccer analyst Ponga Liwewe noted the team must not disintegrate because of the loss.
He said Zambia was in a re-building process which calls for a lot of time and patience.
"For me, it's the beginning of the re-building process and we must look at this as a positive step towards re-building. Zambia has made a lot of progress in the last few months," Ponga observed.
"Success is not an overnight thing, it takes time. Rather than seeing the team disintegrate, there must be continuity."
Ponga further took a swipe at last minute financial rewards to the squad.
He said the players need to be financially motivated when the qualifying series start.
"When the team is on the verge of qualification, suddenly there is money available. Had this money been available in the initial stages of the qualifiers, maybe we would have been talking about a different story now."
Meanwhile, the under-15 national team yesterday beat fancied Supersport junior side 2-1 in the ongoing Ubungani soccer tournament in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Supersport, who are coached by an expert from Holland whitewashed their first opponents on Saturday whom they beat by 17 goals.
The boys who left last week by road drew their first encounter against Orlando Pirates junior side.
Zambia plays Angola tomorrow.
Mulonga said the boys had shown a lot of zeal in the tournament.
by Augustine Mukoka in Kumasi
Source: The Post/All Africa Global Media
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