UNDER-17 national team assistant coach Tenant Chilumba says it is inevitable for Zambia as defending Council of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) champions to have pressure.

The team arrived in Mauritius on Saturday ahead of the competition scheduled to kick off on Thursday.

Chilumba said Zambia as defending champions will feel the pressure but that the technical bench has psyched the players to withstand it.

“We are all focused. There will be pressure but we have psyched the boys, they just have to remain focused. We are ready for the challenge,” he said.

Chilumba said all the players are responding well and looking forward to the competition.

The Kabwe Warriors trainer will be in charge of the team as head coach Osward Mutapa is still serving his two-year suspension.

Mutapa was suspended in 2016 when Zambia was found wanting for age cheating after two players failed the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests during the tournament.

Mutapa’s suspension expires next month.

The COSAFA under-20 championship will be used as a qualifier for the 2019 Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations.

Chilumba is optimistic the players in the team have the capacity to qualify to the continental competition.

Zambia who are defending COSAFA champions will open the title defence on Friday against Mozambique at the Francois Xavier Stadium.

Prior to departure the team underwent the Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) at the Italian Orthopaedic Hospital in Lusaka.

Winners of the 2018 Cosafa Castle Cup will automatically qualify to the Tanzania 2019 Africa Cup of Nations which is a precursor the Peru FIFA U17 World Cup.

The tournament runs from July 19-29.