South Africa U-20 Coach Thabo Senong believes hosts Zambia will be under pressure to win when the two Southern African teams face each other in the first semi-final of the 2017 Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s semi-final at the National Heroes Stadium will be the third time the two teams have played each other in as many months. In their previous two meetings, it was Zambia who triumphed via 2-1 score lines on both occasions, first in the U-20 Cosafa Cup final on 16 December followed by an international friendly match played in Lusaka on 12 February.
Senong insists that as a result of recent victories over his team coupled with expectations from home fans, Zambia will be under pressure, factors which could work in favour of the Amajita who finished second in Group B to set up a meeting with the hosts.
He added that unlike the two previous meetings, his team will have all the best players available on Wednesday.
“In all the different times we have met Zambia like the Cosafa, the qualification and the friendly, we used different teams. We used different groups of players because we have challenges in our country on the availability of players. When it is not a FIFA day it is difficult, some because of school commitments,” said Senong.
“Let us not deceive ourselves, Zambia is under pressure from its fans to win the tournament so we will see how the match comes out.”
Senong believes that going into the semi-final with an underdog tag will work to his team’s advantage.
“When you are an underdog, you work very hard; you are always in the performance zone. I am happy that we won’t be in the comfort zone. We will work hard,” he said.
“It will be a David versus Goliath game. We do not know the outcome yet.”
“When we came in this tournament, we were obviously underdogs. Nobody gave us a chance to go to the next round. Even now nobody is giving us a chance that we can win the semi-final against Zambia.”
Meanwhile Chambeshi said he had a lot of respect for South Africa but his team was gunning for victory.
“South Africa is scoring and we are also scoring but my defence has faced strong teams and will be able to handle any challenge,” he said.
South Africa boast of the tournament's leading goal scorer Luther Singh who has four goals in three matches but he is closely tailed by Zambian duo of Fashion Sakala and Patson Daka who have netted three times each.
Zambia also have Enock Mwepu who has scored once while providing three assists in the process.
Edward Chilufya who has two goals to his name has also provided as many assists.
Zambia and South Africa along with the other two semi-finalists, Guinea and Senegal, automatically qualified to the 2017 U-20 FIFA World Cup which takes place in Korea Republic from 20 May to 11 June.
Zambia and South Africa play the first semi-final on Wednesday at National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka while Senegal and Guinea face off on Thursday at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
Both matches have a kick off time off 18h00 CAT.