IVORY COAST: TANZANIA’S hopes of advancing beyond the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) now rest on their final Group F match against Congo DR on Tuesday.
This comes after Taifa Stars threw away 1-0 lead with a minute to go, only to let 10-men from Zambia to secure a point at the Laurent Pokou Stadium in San Pédro, Ivory Coast on Sunday.
Following the result, Stars sit at the bottom of Group F with one point, while Zambia are third on two points, similar to Congo DR at second. With four points, Morocco lead the group.
Stars were on the verge of making history of registering their first ever victory in the continental top tier finals with Simon Msuva’s 11th minute strike. Neither in 1980 nor 2019 did Stars register victory in AFCON finals.
After Zambian forward Patson Daka scored a late comeback, hopes remain high that ‘Chipolopolo’ can make their dream to advance into the last 16 come true.
It is, therefore, do-or-die for Taifa Stars to win the last group match against Congo DR in order to advance into the last 16. Stars suffered a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of pre-tournament favourites Morocco in their opening match last Wednesday.
It was all clear for Stars to win yesterday, as they displayed a much-improved performance that saw them dominating in both halves. In early opening exchanges, both teams kept the ball low as they study each other on the pitch, with no chances of danger being created.
Stars ascended into the picture and in the 11th minute, Msuva received Mbwana Samatta’s pass and smashed it into the right-hand corner to open the scoring.
It all started from midfielder Mzamiru Yassin who won the challenge at the middle of the pack only to pick Samatta, who dribbled past the Zambian defenders and the skipper threaded a neat sideway pass to Msuva, who had time and space to place his shot past goalkeeper Lawrance Mulenga.
In response, Zambia attempted to level the score in the 20th minute through Kings Kangwa, who arrived at Roderick Kabwe’s set piece with a header but couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Zambia continued to push hard and Kangwa had another close chance fluffed in the 31st minute after outsmarting the Stars’ defence. However, his teammate failed to make the most from his cut back pass inside the box.
Banda again fired a powerful shot from outside the area in the 37th minute that was tipped into Aishi Manula’s hands.
As time went on, pressure increased on Zambia, and they were forced to commit more fouls, leading to their skipper Roderick Kabwe receiving two yellow cards on two different occasions, which ultimately turned into a red card. The first half ended with Tanzania leading 1-0.
In the early stages of the second half, Stars interim Coach Hemed Suleiman made a few technical changes to his team, with Haji Mnoga and Feisal Salum taken off and replaced by Lusajo Mwaikenda and Morice Abraham.
In the 48th minute, Stars had a chance to double their lead through Kibu Dennis, but he failed to take advantage of the opportunity that Mwaikenda had created for him.
In the 62nd minute, Zambia’s striker Patson Daka pressed Stars defence and fired a shot, but Manula stretched to the limit to make a good save.
Stars made two more technical changes, bringing in Mudathir Yahya and Charles M’Mbobwa, for Himid Mao and Kibu Dennis.
In the 71st minute, Morice received a nice pass from Msuva before he delivered a powerful shot, but Zambian goalkeeper Mulenga was able to save it.
Zambia also made changes with Banda and Chepeshi out replaced by Chilufya and Chaiwa. Then Clautous Chama and Kennedy Musonda replaced Sakala and Kangwa.
As time went on, Stars’s concentration began to falter, giving the Zambian side an advantage to press forward. The efforts paid off in the 89th minute when Daka headed the ball high into the net to equalise from Chama’s corner.
Things turned sour for Tanzania in the late minute, as Zambia made another attempt through Emmanuel Banda who fired a bullet but Manula stood up as a hero to stop the strike.