Pretoria — Defending champions Zambia have crashed out at the earliest possible stage of the Africa Nations Cup (Afcon) following their goal-less draw in their last group stage match against Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium on Tuesday night.
Three successive draws in the group stage were not enough to take the title holders to the Afcon quarter-finals, and they exit the continental showpiece with three points.
However, the frustrating draw for the Zambians was a good outcome for Burkina Faso, who finished on top of the group with five points, followed by Nigeria who hammered Ethiopia 2-0 in another Group C match played concurrently at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
Nigeria will now take on Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals on Sunday 3, February.
The Super Eagles' goals were scored by Chelsea striker Victor Moses from a penalty kick.
Following these Group C results, Burkina Faso will now play Tunisia or Togo, while Nigeria will play Ivory Coast.
In Mbombela, the opening minutes of the game saw the two teams playing a physical game that resulted in the substitution of Alain Traore in the 10th minute after he was injured in a strong tackle. He was replaced by Aristede Bance.
A few minutes later, the Zambians lost their experienced defender, Davis Nkausu, also through a strong tackle and he was replaced by Joseph Musonda in the 15th minute.
Mayuka was in the 34th minute cautioned with a yellow card for simulation after he tumbled in the penalty area.
Burkina Faso were keeping it very tight in both their midfield and defence as they continued to take the game to the champions without holding back.
However, Kalaba should have put the Zambians in the lead after Chansa curled a nice cross into the box. But with no pressure from the Burkina Faso defence who were ball watching, Kalaba headed straight into the goalkeeper.
In the other Group C fixture between Nigeria and Ethiopia, the Super Eagles were in control of the match throughout the first half, but the Ethiopian defence remained solid enough to deny them a goal.
At half time, the score-line remained goal-less in both Mbombela and Royal Bafokeng. In the second half, Burkina seemed to be looking to settle for a draw.
Zambia coach Herve Renard replaced former Orlando Pirates player Chansa and brought in Mukuka Mulenga, who was recently crowned Zambian Footballer of the Year.
The young Mulenga changed the game dramatically as the Zambians were now fervently searching for the winning goal.
The defending champions came to the match with two goals, two points and two penalties against them from the previous two group stage matches.
The title holders were also tied with Nigeria, while Burkina Faso were on top of the group with one match and on draw to lead the group with four points.