UNDER-23 national team coach Fighton Simukonda is upbeat Zambia will qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Simukonda said in an interview in Lusaka on Saturday after his team denied Ivory Coast a slot at the Senegal Africa Under-23 Championship finals that the junior Chipolopolo will make it to the Brazil showpiece.
Zambia beat Ivory Coast 4-3 on penalties after a goalless draw over two legs.
“The team we have is capable of going to Brazil. I have no doubt about that. We will make it to Brazil next year and that is our focus,” Simukonda said.
The top three teams at the Senegal finals will progress to the Olympic Games with the fourth finishers facing an Asian side in a playoff.
Simukonda, h o w e v e r, expressed concern with the blunt strike force.
“Scoring is a concern but we now have enough time to work on the strike force. We have no time to rest. We have to start planning now,” Simukonda said.
He also said there is need to arrange for international friendlies for the team.
Skipper Toaster Nsabata said the target is to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“We are done with the Africa Championship qualifiers and our next target is the Olympics. It wasn’t easy to reach this far but we are determined to go further. We will prepare well for Senegal and I will make sure we perform well and qualify to the Olympics,” the Zanaco goalkeeper said.
So far Algeria, Egypt, South Africa, Zambia and hosts Senegal have booked tickets to Dakar.
Minister of Youth and Sport Vincent Mwale called for adequate preparations, saying focus should be on qualifying for the tournament in Brazil.
Mwale said there is no luxury to relax because the toughest battle will be in Senegal.
“They should not relax. They should not think that beating Ivory Coast is everything. We have seen that the landscape of football is changing in Africa. We have to put this story of beating Ivory Coast behind and focus should be on Senegal. We just have to make sure that we are prepared to take on any team,” he said.
Mwale expressed concern with the blunt strike force and called on the technical bench to sharpen the target-men.
Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) president Kalusha Bwalya said qualification to the Olympic Games was long overdue and believes the team has enough strength to conquer.
Zambia last qualified for the football tournament at the Olympic Games in 1988.
“It’s been a long time and we hope the boys know that. It is important that we prepare from now until December so that when we go to Senegal and do the right thing hoping luck will be on our side this time. We hope to God that Zambia can raise the flag in Rio,” said Kalusha, who led Zambia to the quarter-finals at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games where he scored five goals.
FAZ communications manager Nkweto Tembwe condemned fans for throwing all sorts of missiles onto the pitch when first assist referee Oamogetse Godisamang of Botswana adjudged Zambia’s corner for a goal kick.
“Fans should know that football has emotions and we should control emotions. If such things continue we will take measures by taking games somewhere else. We are happy that police acted quickly to restore order,” Tembwe said.
Former national team defender Manfred Chabinga said with hard work, Zambia will be among the top three teams at the Senegal finals.
Zambia Sports Fans Association patron Peter Make