CHIPOLOPOLO coach Wedson Nyirenda says Zambia is still in the race to qualify to the World Cup despite going down 2-1 in the opening match against Nigeria yesterday.
And captain Rainford Kalaba has apologised as an individual for missing scoring chances and asked the fans to forgive the team for the defeat.
In his post-match comments, Nyirenda said his team would fight for the remaining 15 points after yesterday’s loss.
“It was sad, football being what it is, it went the other way. But I want to say that the defenders were today jittery and unsettled. Maybe the stage was big but it happens in football,” said Nyirenda. “We are still in the game, we are not out.”
And Kalaba said: “I have to say sorry to the fans and to the nation. I missed good scoring chances; I could have scored one or two goals and overall, we could have won the game but we did not do much as a team so we are sorry, we will work on the weaknesses and do better in the remaining games.”
Nigeria explored Zambia’s sluggish defence and scored two easy goals through the English premiership duo of Arsenal’s Alexander Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City to drown the noise at Levy Mwanawasa stadium.
Before that, Zambia had an early chance in the second minute when Fwayo Tembo’s tricky shot from far right eluded Nigeria’s goalkeeper Ikeme Onora and hit the cross bar.
The game shifted the visitors’ way as they dominated possession with ease, but Zambia recovered and started to pin passes together, resulting in the first powerful shot from Tembo, although the Power Dynamos striker shot straight over Onora on 23 minutes.
On 33 minutes, what was a time bomb for Zambia finally exploded in their faces when Green Buffaloes defender Adrian Chama failed to clear the lines from a Nigerian corner and dropped the ball straight at Iwobi in six yards and the Arsenal teenager wasted no time to make it 1-0.
Five minutes later, in-form Tembo dribbled past the Nigerian defence and crossed crisply for Kalaba whose powerful header hit Onora and was cleared off the line.
On 42 minutes, Iheanacho made it 2-0 after poor defensive work again, to take into the break leading the home team.
On resumption, Nyirenda removed ineffective Chama for Kondwani Mtonga and the defence improved, leading to Mbesuma’s goal on 70 minutes to make it 2-1.
That was after Kalaba missed two clear cut chances in succession.
Zambia’s next group game is against Camerron in Yaounde.