WITH a place at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) well tucked away, Government has now urged the national soccer team players to ensure that the Chipolopolo defends the cup and secures qualification for their first ever World Cup finals to be held in Brazil in 2014.
Addressing the team in the dressing room, moments after goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene's heroics secured Zambia a place at next year's Africa Cup in South Africa, Kambwili said Brazil 2014 was a must for Zambia.
The minister said that, with the team maturing and picking up results when it really mattered, Zambia has never been in a more assuring situation than now in the quest for the first ever World Cup appearance and should not let this opportunity off their grasp.
Kambwili said Zambia needed to take advantage of the team's oneness and maturity levels to defend the AFCON trophy in South Africa next year before shifting attention to the World Cup qualifiers that resume in March.
He said the Chipolopolo should ensure to be part of the 32 countries that would make it for the World Cup finals adding that having picked up three points from Sudan, which were basically dropped, the odds were tilting into Zambia's favour and the opportunity needed to be maximised.
"We should get in a situation where in future when we look back, we should say, we had an opportunity and we made it count. We went to the World Cup, won and also defended the Africa Cup, instead of regretting what could have been," Kambwili said.
In Uganda after a tense match in which the team under-performed in the first half, Mweene came to Zambia's rescue by saving a header from point blank range from Emmanuel Okwi which would have closed curtains on the Chipolopolo's Africa Cup defence.
Mweene, who plays for Free State Stars in the South African Premier Soccer League, later stopped Patrick Ochan's penalty to give Zambia a 9-8 victory.
"We are happy as Government that you have qualified to the Africa Cup and in truth, it takes so much to defeat a king or legend and in this case, Zambia, was never going to fall so easily. And now you need to maintain discipline and remain focused. If you lose focus, we shall not go anywhere.
"You guys are on roll of results and you must make sure that you make this count by qualifying us to the first ever World Cup finals in Brazil. Your confidence is encouraging, even at tense times, your kept your heads level and was a sign you knew what you were doing, Let's now take that to the World Cup," Kambwili said.
He said Government remained committed to the success of the team and reminded the players that he would work hard to make sure that they got Government's attention in the quest for a first ever World Cup showing.
And Parliamentary Youth and Sport sub-committee chairperson, Levy Ngoma expressed happiness at the team making the AFCON finals and showed this through a donation of K11 million to the team just after the match.
"I am so excited at the way you qualified, you looked always to have the situation under control, even when it was time for penalties and even when I don't have money here, I would like to donate K11 million to the team, well done guys," he said.