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26.03.2004 Football News

Zambian Under-23 fit for Ghana

By MUWALI MUSAMPULA in Johannesburg
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THE Zambia under-23 soccer team has left South Africa for Ghana ahead of Sunday's Group D decisive Athens Olympics qualifier in Kumasi.

The team, which had camped in Johannesburg for two days, had a morning work out at a ground called John Cole which is just a stone's throw away from Milpark Holiday Inn Hotel, their base before flying out to Kumasi around midday.

Central defender Given Mpundu who was struck down by malaria has made commendable progress and has managed the trip to Ghana. Under-23 coach Peter Kaumba said his boys were mentally, technically and tactically prepared for the Sunday encounter which will make or break Zambia's chances of making it to Greece in August.

Zambia last played Ghana in similar circumstances in 1988 when the team led by captain Ashols Melu, which also featured Kalusha Bwalya now FAZ vice president and national team technical director, beat Ghana 2-1 on aggregate to make it to the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

At the Seoul Olympics, Zambia's second after the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Samuel “Zoom” Ndhlovu-coached team made history by becoming the first African country to make it to the quarter-finals after an astonishing run which included a 4-0 trouncing of Italy.

Zambia are tied at the top of Group D with Ghana on 10 points but with a better goal aggregate and will qualify if it can manage a draw while the hosts need an outright win to book a ticket to Athens in August.

The team had a preparatory match against South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) fifth-placed Wits University who held them to a one all draw at the university grounds on Wednesday.

Green Buffaloes winger, Felix Katongo struck the equaliser five minutes before full time to make 1-1 to give his team a boost for Sunday's encounter.

Delegation leader George Kasengele said the team was in high spirits and was confident of winning adding, “We are not talking about a draw and we do not want to. We are going to Ghana for an outright victory.”