South Korea v. Zambia: Chipolopolo’s susceptibility to the aerial ball defines the game

The Zambia national team today, 15th August, 2012 went down 2-1 to South Korea at Anyang Stadium in Seoul, South Korea. Overally, it was a see-saw affair with both teams taking turns in attacking each others goal. As is usually the case for the home side, South Korea had the lion share of ball possession and created more goal-scoring chances. On the other hand, the Chipolopolo of Zambia played on the break and sniffed for goals through the twin strike force of James Chamanga and Emmanuel Mayuka.

Tactics and formations

Zambia played 4-4-2 with captain of the day – Kennedy Mweene – in goal. The defence had Emmanuel Mbola at left back, Joseph Musonda at right back and Aaron Katebe and Nyambe Mulenga in central defence. William Njobvu and Isaac Chansa starred in central midfield with Chisamba Lungu out left of midfield and Joseph Sitali on the right side. Chamanga and Mayuka combined upfront.

It was clear that Zambia’s coach, Herve Renard was taking the friendly match seriously when he started with six players that lined-up in the Africa Cup of Nations final match against Ivory Coast in February, 2012.

South Korea also had a shape resembling 4-4-2. They effectively extended play by utilising the wings to swiftly run at Zambia. In the first half, Yo-Han Ko and Lee Dong-Gook kept combining superbly on the left tying Zambia’s Joseph Musonda in all sorts of knots. In the 26th minute Herve Renard was forced to plug the leaking right side of Zambia’s defence by withdrawing Joseph Musonda for Davies Nkausu. This master-stroke immediately led to Zambia equalising as Nkausu pushed up on the right and pinged in a dipping cross that Mayuka met on the half-volley to level for Zambia.

Dead and aerial balls

If there is an aspect of play that Zambia has to get right before it faces Uganda in a crucial qualifier for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations, it is how to effectivey deal with aerial balls that results from dead balls. Lee Keun Ho was allowed the freedom to meet the end of a lofted cross to register Korea’s first goal in the 15th minute. Several defenders went for the same ball which they all couldn’t reach, showing disorganisation in Zambia’s box. The Zambians were not doing a good job of picking up the opposition to mark.

The second goal resulted from two Zambian defenders chasing the same ball and colliding to the floor in their box. The Koreans quickly shifted attack and Zambia did not have the time to pick up the Koreans. Lee Keun Ho ensured he took advantage of this shambles to register his second goal.

Every other free kick that was whipped into Zambia’s box was a cause for concern because of the disjointed zonal marking. It did not help matters that on the ground, Nyambe Mulenga and Joseph Musonda appeared the weakest chinks in Zambia’s armour. Both appeared too slow for the speedy Koreans. Zambia’s appeared particularly vulnerable everytime the Koreans conjured up a through-ball. Mulenga kicked out carelessly to concede a free kick in the 17th minute in a very dangerous area.

Failure to keep possession

Zambia were needlessly on the back foot for some spells. Frequently misplaced passes, even when not under pressure, resulted in Zambia having to chase the game. The midfielders were the worst culprits. Aside imprecise passing, there was a tendency to be caught in possession in dangerous areas. Emmanuel Mbola and William Njobvu must have exercised the patience of Herve Renard by losing possession when holding onto the ball seemed the easiest thing to do. William tended to over-elaborate on occasion and will be grateful that his occasional tardiness did not result in Zambia conceding goals.

As for the defenders, especially Aaron Katebe and Nyambe Mulenga, they tended to head every high ball back to the Koreans. The calmness to bring the ball under control before looking for an outlet, as Stophila Sunzu tends to do, was absent. Mulenga and Katebe were in a rush to hoof the ball upfront thereby conceding possession. On the evidence of the display of Nyambe Mulenga and Aaron Katebe, the TP Mazembe duo of Stophila Sunzu and Hichani Himoonde can rest secure in the fact that their central defensive partnership for Zambia will remain unshaken for sometime to come.

Zambia’s attack

Chipolopolo created few goal-scoring chances in the first half. They only really tried to open up South Korea in the secong half, towards the end of the match. James Chamanga and Mayuka were starved of quality service upfront. They fed on scraps wafted in from the wings through crosses. When they had the ball, they did not combine effectively to carve out chances for themselves.

The direct forays at South Korea’s goal, through the middle, were often orchestrated or master-minded by William Njobvu. In the 22nd minute of the first half Njobvu ran unmarked into Korea’s box but could not hold his balance. This was Zambia’s first clear sighting of South Korea’s goal. Njobvu showed his true class in the 46th minute when he won the ball in the midfield, ran past the opposition and unleashed a shot at goal. He further unfurled his repertoire of skills when in the 77th minute he deftly controlled the ball to lob Young-Kwang Kim in South Korea’s goal only for the upright to intevene and deny Zambia what would have been a wonderful equaliser.

While Joseph Sitali, who is on the peripheral of the main Zambia team, shone and showed that he was not overawed by the occasion, Chisamba Lungu was very quiet and failed to stamp his mark on the game. It was left to Isaac Chansa and Njobvu to try and create for the forwards.While Sitali showed he can be deft on the ball, he has to add more offensive qualities to his game, if he is ever to confine Rainford Kalaba to the bench.

Mayuka remains Zambia’s best finisher. He has the nose for goal. Chamanga is a goal poacher in his own right but against Korea, the two did not seem to complement each other. When Christopher Katongo plays upfront with Mayuka it appears that Zambia have two centres of attack, which is good in itself as football is about getting goals. However, Mayuka continues to lack quality provision of the ball to enable him trouble the opposition for sustainable periods of time.


The Zambians made a good account of themselves as they played with determination. They fought for every ball and in the late stages of the game pinned South Korea in their own half as they went for an equaliser, showing how much they wanted a positive outcome from the game. William Njobvu showed that he is a class act in midfield. Joseph Sitali did not disappoint. The fledgling Aaron Katebe gave a good account of himself at the heart of defence and he is one for the future. Emmanuel Mbola’s return appears to have cemented Zambia’s defence. His over-lapping runs on the left were a delight to see. Emmanuel Mayuka showed why at a tender age he can be trusted to lead Zambia’s line and he might just be the player who will define how far Zambia will go as it chases double qualification for the Brazil 2014 World Cup and the Africa Cup 2013 in South Africa.


Gilbert Phiri



Leave a Reply