This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria/Zambia: SA 2013 - Nigeria, Zambia Battle for Top Spot

Nigeria and defending champions Zambia will battle to win Group C and so avoid mighty Cote d'Ivoire in the knockout stage of the AFCON.

The other teams in Group C in Nelpsruit are Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, who could well define the final standings.

Already the January 25 clash between the Super Eagles and Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) has generated a lot of excitement even before a ball is kicked in anger.

Ticket sales for this fixture have been most encouraging as Zambia are expected to enjoy a lot of support from their compatriots who are expected to come down in droves from across the border.

Zambia coach Herve Renard has already stoked the fire by saying he has not been impressed by the Eagles in pre-AFCON warm-ups and that his team want to top this group.

"We want to finish top of our group like in 2010 and 2012. It's not easy, but we want to go as far as possible because this team has fantastic team spirit," the Frenchman said.

However, like Nigeria, Zambia have also struggled in the run-in to this competition after they lost three straight warm-up games against the likes of Saudi Arabia and Tanzania.

Interestingly, Nigeria stopped Zambia after a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Nations Cup in Angola.

Both teams parade some exciting players like Rainford Kalaba, Stopilla Sunzu (Zambia) and Ahmed Musa and Victor Moses (Nigeria).

They have met 16 times, four of which were at the AFCON with Nigeria having the upper hand as they have won three and drawn one of these clashes.

But while Zambia have retained the bulk of the team who surprised Africa last year, Nigeria are rebuilding and so are in South Africa with as many as 17 players who will be making their AFCON debuts.

Both Burkina Faso and Ethiopia have boosted they will go past the first round stage with the Walia Antelopes from Addis Ababa impressive in tune-up matches for the AFCON.

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