The arrival of Milutin Sredojevic as Zambia’s head coach for the senior men’s football team is hailed as a move that could be mark a turning point for Chipolopolo to return to their glory days. The former Orlando Pirates mentor was appointed to his position in February this year. And due to the coronavirus pandemic, he only made his debut as coach this week against a fairly decent opposition.
Following the victory over Bafana Bafana, his second in three international friendlies, the Serbian outlined his plans the national team.
Sredojevic couldn’t have asked for a better start to his tenure.
The wins over Malawi and Bafana Bafana, including a goalless draw against Kenya, will certainly boost the confidence of the team. He selected a fairly young side for the international friendlies, leaving out some of the household names. It underlines the depth he has at his disposal, with Zambia known to have an abundance of talent. It’s evident in the number of players who ply their trade in top leagues on the continent, while others have secured moves to Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Part of Sredojevic’s immediate plan is to try and strike a balance in his selection. He needs to get his combinations right because Zambia are desperate to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations. Chipolopolo have missed the last two tournaments. And they have already suffered two defeats in their current qualifying campaign.
“This is the youngest Afcon Zambia team that has come. This is less than 24 years (in average) age and with few more players that are missing that are also young we are making a team in years to come is supposed to be a force to reckon to return Zambia to where it once was.”
Although results are achieved on the field of play, Sredojevic found it vital to create a bond amongst the players. His calm nature and ability to identify the right moment to encourage his players, contributed immensely in overturning a 1-0 deficit against South Africa, and going on to win the match 2-1 at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on Sunday.
“I need to sort this team to have – first out of it – good human relations, so that when they come on the field look right left back my best friends are around me to play for the nation and to give their best,” says Micho.
His counterpart Molefi Ntseki, who has been in charge for a few games, but has been part of the setup for while did not have a week to remember.
The results did not inspire confidence and it’s clear that his bosses are expecting better outcomes in the next matches.
“We hope that he will work hard to get the team in shape and ready for the next match which is no longer a friendly or test event. It’s actually an Afcon qualifier and of course, we have players in Europe and he can call on them.”
However, it was after all matches in preparation of the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Soa Tome e Principe in November. And Ntseki, with his vast experience at international level, would have immediately identified his shortcomings.
“We played like a team with no confidence and I think that’s what really killed the momentum and the rhythm in the team and we kept giving away ball possession and we gave away too many corner kicks very early in the game and I think if you experience those situations in a game the confidence becomes a bit of a challenge.”
While Sredojevic will try and record Zambia’s first points against Botswana in back-to-back Afcon qualifiers next month, Ntseki will have to use Bafana’s matches against Soa Tome and Principe to try and restore the country’s confidence in him.