THE Zambia Under-17 national soccer team today start their campaign for a berth at the 2013 African Junior Championship when they face South Africa’s Amajimbosi in the first round, first leg in Johannesburg. The young lads will be looking to make history by qualifying as Zambia has not qualified to this tournament before.
The match between the Southern Africa rivals is set for 16:00 hours at Dobson Ville Stadium in Soweto.
Mutapa’s ambition is to steer the junior Chipolopolo to their maiden African Championship finals qualification.
“We have come here to try and win the match. We have to be good both home and away to realise our dreams of qualifying to the finals in Morocco next year. The boys are looking impressive and now we are just looking forward to the match,” Mutapa said.
He is, however, aware of the tough task ahead for his charges, who have impressed in recent international friendlies against Zimbabwe.
“We know that it will not be easy as international games are always tough fixtures and difficult but the friendlies against Zimbabwe have really put us in good position,” he said.
Mutapa, who was in charge when the team lost to the Black Starlets of Ghana in 2010, is convinced the junior Chipolopolo have a chance to qualify for the finals.
Zambia were eliminated in the second round of the 2011 Africa Under-17 Championship losing 3-2 on aggregate to the Black starlets of Ghana.
He said the reception has been good although it has been raining heavily since Thursday.
South Africa coach Ephraim ‘Shakes’ Mashaba is confident of a good result despite having little time to prepare.
“Zambia have tough and skillful players that is why we need to focus more on tactical work. There is an air of optimism and excitement amongst the players as well as nerves. This is natural,” Mashaba said.
Mutapa will look up to the duo of strikers Boyd Mkandawire and Spencer Sauti for the much needed goals.
Mkandawire and Sauti have been impressive scoring in Zambia’s 2-1 win over Zimbabwe in last Saturday’s international friendly at Olympic Youth Development Centre.
Chibuye Mulilo, Langson Phiri and Crispin Sakulanda are the other options in case Mkandawire and Sauti fail to score while Mangani Banda is expected to get the nod in goal ahead of Marvin Kasenzi.
The 10th edition of the African Junior Championship is scheduled to take place in Morocco from April 13-27, 2013.
The biannual continental championship will also serve as qualifiers for the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup finals.
Winners of this two-legged qualifier will meet either Ghana or Gambia for a place at next year’s finals.