Zambians silence so-called 'experts'

ROB BRODIE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

They were the longest of long shots.

Or so the "experts" thought about Zambia's chances at the outset of the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

But the No. 4 qualifiers from Africa are still standing tall, awaiting one more chance to shock the world on Thursday at Frank Clair Stadium.

"For us, it's a big achievement," defender Dennis Banda said yesterday about his side's furthest progression ever in this tournament.

In 1999, Zambia made its only previous appearance in the U-20 World Cup, and didn't survive the group stage. More of the same was expected this time around, when the African side was grouped with Spain, Uruguay and Jordan.

By everyone but the Zambians, that is.

CONFIDENT CREW

"Spain, Uruguay and Jordan thought we were underdogs," said defender Goodson Kachinga. "Many people here thought Zambia were underdogs.

"But (we knew) that was not true."

How confident is Zambia?

Star midfielder Clifford Mulenga was interviewed on Uruguayan television before the countries' final preliminary-round match Saturday in Victoria and boldly guaranteed his side would win. Then Zambia went out and stunned the South Americans 2-0 to seize second spot in Group B.

Now they're lined up against Nigeria, the African side that has the most illustrious resume in this tournament. The Flying Eagles have been finalists twice, including 2005 in the Netherlands.

Zambia lost to Nigeria 4-2 in the African qualifying tournament held in Congo earlier this year. But Kachinga feels good about his team's chances on Thursday.

"We lost (to Nigeria) in Africa," he said. "But now we're in Canada. It will be very difficult for them to beat us again."


Photos