Zambia: Renard Mourns Chipolopolo Exit

ZAMBIA coach Herve Renard is saddened that the defending champions suffered an early exit from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) last night after putting in their best.

After seeing his charges surrender the AFCON title following a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso here, Renard said while it was a painful experience, such things happen in life and that it was not the end of the world for the Chipolopolo.

He said the Chipolopolo just needed to move on and draw some inspiration from the fact that they achieved something special last year - lifting the AFCON - after several years of failed attempts.

"In the past you used to go home with a quarter-final elimination. You have to accept that such things happen, it is not the end of the world but you have to move on.

"It's better to have won something in life than always having been eliminated in quarter-finals," he said.

Burkina Faso coach Paul Put thanked his players for being dedicated to duty and ensure they achieved the qualification.

Put said his players did well and deserved to earn a quarter-final place at the expense of Zambia, whom he claimed failed to cope with his team's long balls.

"This is the biggest achievement in a long time. The target was to get the quarter-final spot but we had to maintain our belief that we could go far after drawing with Nigeria.

"The injury for Traore hit us bad but we need to see how he copes after the hospital. I am happy that the players were able to cope well after his substitution," he said.

While Zambia became the first AFCON defending champions to bow out at the group stage level since 1992, Burkina Faso also qualified for the quarter-finals for the first time since 1998.

And a sombre wave swept through Zambia last night after the Chipolopolo's ejection from the 29th edition of the AFCON in South Africa, FELIX MALUNGA reports.

In Ndola, some fans openly wept after failing to stomach the Chipolopolo's shocking elimination from the AFCON, barely a year after winning it in Gabon.

Some other fans quietly trooped out of the places dotted around the central business district where they were watching this Group C clash from.

Other fans said Zambia's elimination was a culmination of what was bound to happen following a string of uninspiring performances in the run-up to the tournament.

In Kitwe's central business district, IGNATIUS MAZEKO reports that fans left the various places they were watching the match from in disbelief when the Camerounian referee blew the final whistle that signalled Zambia's disappointing elimination from the tournament.

The broken-hearted fans walked out of the places in the town centre way before full time when Chelsea striker Victor Moses converted the first of his two penalties for Nigeria to give the Super Eagles a 1-0 lead over Ethiopia.

Most disappointed fans talked to said Zambia lacked firepower upfront to overhaul Burkina Faso while others said Chipolopolo squandered their progress in the tournament from the first match when the Herve Renard-coached side drew 1-1 with a 10-man Ethiopia outfit.

"Both Burkina Faso and Nigeria beat Ethiopia - we didn't. I think the Ethiopia game was key to qualification and the two teams that were challenging us for a place in the quarter-finals proved that," said Mubanga Kangwa.

In Lusaka, SHAMAOMA MUSONDA reports that bitterness and the blame-game was evident as fans watched Zambia knocked out.

Chilenje Township was in audible silence as the final seconds of added time ticked away with fans expressing anger that Chipolopolo's frontline never posed a real threat despite dominating.

Others shifted blame to the deplorable state of the pitch at Mbombela stadium, saying Zambia failed to replicate the form that saw them win the Africa Cup just a year ago because of the uneven and sandy patched pitch.

The more shrewd fans heaped the blame on Renard for failing to read that his team could not score from the time it started friendlies where they failed to win even one game from the five preparatory matches.

Despite the poor run, the fans said the coach kept defending the players' performance even when the danger bells rang.

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