A howler by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene condemned Zambia to an
anxious finish before they beat Guinea-Bissau 2-1 Wednesday in a
2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Lusaka.
Shock 2012 champions Zambia should have been more than two goals
ahead before a capacity 60,000 crowd at the National Heroes
Stadium when Mweene blundered nine minutes from time.
The South Africa-based veteran hesitated over a back-pass instead
of clearing it and the ball rebounded off Frederic Mendy into the
Guinea-Bissau, a bogey team for Zambia in the 2017 qualifiers,
almost snatched an undeserved equaliser in stoppage time with a
snap shot that was just too high.
The tiny west African nation took four points off Zambia in the
last qualifying competition to eliminate the 'Chipolopolo'
(Copper Bullets) and reach the finals for the first time.
Guinea-Bissau host the return match on Sunday with a chance to
avenge this Group K defeat inflicted by goals from Stoppila Sunzu
and Justin Shonga.
A corner manoeuvre led to Sunzu nodding Zambia in front on 17
minutes and a brilliant Clatous Chama pass sent Shonga clear to
round goalkeeper Jonas Mendes and score.
Zambia wasted numerous chances to increase their advantage,
notably when Musonda Lubambo blazed over from point-blank range.
"This is a match we had to win," said Belgium-born Zambia coach
Sven Vandenbroeck, making his home debut after a Cup of Nations
draw in Namibia and a friendly win in Gabon.
He was assistant coach of surprise 2017 Cup of Nations champions
Cameroon, working with head coach and compatriot Hugo Broos.
They were axed after the 'Indomitable Lions' subsequently
disappointed in the FIFA Confederations Cup and failed to qualify
for the World Cup.
Mozambique, who host Namibia on Friday, Zambia and Guinea-Bissau
have four points each and the top two sides in the final
standings go to the 2019 finals in Cameroon.
Earlier, Kenya forced a 0-0 Group J draw against Ethiopia in
Bahir Dar to boost their chances of a first Cup of Nations
appearance since 2004.
Kenya and Ethiopia have four points and Ghana and Sierra Leone
remain on three after their fixture set for Kumasi on Thursday
Sierra Leone failed in a last-minute attempt to have a FIFA ban
lifted over government interference in the running of the sport.
African body CAF announced the cancellation of the fixture, but
did not say whether it could be rescheduled or if Sierra Leone