With its tournament hanging in the balance, little Zambia came up with their biggest win of the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, beating South American giant Uruguay 2-0 in a Group B cross-over match at Royal Athletic Park yesterday.
The victory for Zambia, in front of a capacity crowd of 11,400, sends the African side through to the round of 16 as the second seed out of Group B. The Zambians finish tied in points with Uruguay but are awarded second place based on having scored more goals in group play.
Spain wrapped up the Group B title yesterday, beating Jordan 4-2 in Burnaby. Zambia now heads to Ottawa to take on the second place team from Group F which is Nigeria.
Playing outside their usual home base of Burnaby, Zambia took it to an uninspired Uruguay team who had already clinched at least one of the four third-place berths in the Round of 16. And things went from bad to worse for Uruguay just 16 minutes in when goalkeeper Mauro Goicoechea was given a red card for taking down Zambian striker Emmanuel Mayuka in the penalty area after he miss-kicked an attempted clearance that would have given Mayuka an easy goal. Clifford Mulenga converted the penalty kick for Zambia against new keeper Yonatan Irrazabal, and Uruguay was forced to play with 10 men.
"When we lost our goalkeeper it changed the structure of the game," said Uruguay coach Gustavo Ferrin, whose club finished with a 1-1-1 record and must now travel to either Montreal or Toronto for their round of 16 game.
"Nothing against Zambia, they are a very strong team, but to play with 10 men for so long makes it very, very difficult."
In the final minutes of the first half, Zambia also had a player sent off as Henry Nyambe was given his second yellow card of the match. But just six minutes into the second half Rodgers Kola put the game on ice for Zambia with an easy tap-in from a scramble in the six-yard box.
"We are very happy to get the victory and be playing in the next round," said Zambia coach George Lwandamina, whose club finished with a 1-1-1 record.
"This was a tough game, and we knew it would be, but we were well prepared."
Needing a victory to grab second place in the group, while Uruguay needed only a draw, Lwandamina said his club had to think offence right from the kickoff. And that's exactly what they did.
The Zambian side -- who are the smallest in the tournament at an average of just 5-foot-2 and 132 pounds -- used their speed to create numerous chances in the early going. And their pressure on the Uruguay defence caused the poor pass back to the keeper that resulted in the take down and penalty kick.
"In the past we instructed our midfield to concentrate on defence first, but today we knew we needed some goals so we pushed forward a little more from the middle," added Lwandamina.
Even the Uruguay coach couldn't argue with his keeper being sent off with the automatic red card for taking a player down in the box.
"It was the correct call," admitted Ferrin. "We're not happy about it, but we are still alive so we'll get ready for the next game. We knew we would be travelling to Eastern Canada either way, so the travel was not really a factor in our thinking."
Zambia, who lost 4-2 to Nigeria in African U-20 qualifying earlier this year, must now focus on playing their rivals again in the Ottawa.
"Nigeria, they're just another team we must play," Lwandamina said.
Zambia, which played its first two games at Swangard Stadium, also welcomed the boisterous Zambian fans who cheered on their Green Buffalos.
"We loved Burnaby and we love Victoria," Lwandamina said. "We have been given great support here. It's like our second home."