Hosts Zambia got their 2017 African Under-20 Championships campaign off to a winning start as they edged Guinea in Group A in the tournament’s opening match in Lusaka on Sunday.
Egypt and Mali played to a 0-0 draw in the other game in the pool, leaving Young Chipolopolo on their own at the head of the group after the first round of matches.
Patson Daka grabbed the all-important goal for Zambia at a packed Heroes Stadium in a lively performance that also won him the Man of the Match award.
Daka, who is a full Zambia senior international, netted three minutes after halftime and that proved enough for the three points for the home side.
Zambia did all the early running, with Daka, who plays for Austrian second-tier side Liefering, a particular threat, but it was Enock Mwepu who went closest to a goal when he headed wide from a corner.
The home side were given a scare when Guinea forward Naby Bangoura found himself through on goal, but he ballooned his shot over the crossbar with keeper Mangani Banda beaten.
Zambia coach Beston Chambeshi cut a frustrated figure at the break over his side’s missed chances, but his halftime teamtalk had the desired effect as Daka powered the ball home on 48 minutes.
The conditions on a sodden pitch became tough as the game wore on and the pace of the match slowed as the players tired, with the Zambians able to hold on for the win.
There were few chances in the second clash of the day between Egypt and Mali, with the best falling to Malien midfielder Sékou Koïta just before halftime as he dribbled past two Egyptian defenders before his shot was saved by Young Pharaohs keeper Essam Mohamed.
Zambia can qualify for the semifinals – and win a place at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea in May and June – if they defeat Mali in their second fixture at the same venue on Wednesday.
Guinea will be desperate for victory in their second clash against Egypt earlier in the day or face elimination from the tournament.
Monday’s matches in Group B see Senegal take on Sudan at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola (kick-off 13h00 GMT), while later at the same venue Cameroon meet South Africa (16h00 GMT).