30 January 2013

Zambia Bow Out of Afcon

AFRICAN champions Zambia were last night dumped out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after failing to register a single victory in Group C that saw Burkina Faso and Nigeria qualify for the quarter-finals.

Zambia became the first AFCON defending champions in 21 years to fail to get past the group stage since Algeria's flop in 1992.

It was a solemn sight here as fans who had thronged Mbombela Stadium failed to hide their tears upon realising that the AFCON title had slipped away with the Chipolopolo now having to wait for the 2015 competition to be hosted by Morocco.

A wasteful Zambia needed nothing less than victory to secure a place in the last eight following a 1-1 draw with Ethiopia and later a similar scoreline with Nigeria before wrapping up their campaign with a disappointing barren draw again Burkina Faso.

The draw meant that Burkina Faso finished their campaign on five points, the same as Nigeria who beat Ethiopia 2-0 in the other Group C match played at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

Defender Stoppila Sunzu had a wonderful opportunity to score a winner in stoppage time but shot wide at goal much to the disappointment of the Zambian fans as the Burkina Faso players, coaches and their fans burst into wild celebrations.

The only consolation came through Rainford Kalaba who won the Orange man-of-the-match award to end what has been a disastrous campaign for the Chipolopolo since 2008 - the last time Zambia failed to get past the group stage.

The Herve Renard coached side becomes the second defending champions in the last 21 years, after Algeria, to exit the tournament in the group stages barely a year after stunning the footballing world with a wonderful performance that won them their first ever title in Gabon.

Renard made a brave move dropping underperforming team captain Christopher Katongo and hardworking defender Joseph Musonda to the bench opting to start with Collins Mbesuma and Emmanuel Mayuka upfront, with Hichani Himoonde bouncing back into the team after missing the Nigeria 1-all draw.

Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene got the captain's arm-band with Emmanuel Mbola maintaining his left-back position.

Stoppila Sunzu partnered Himoonde as Davies Nkausu was deployed on the right-back.

Midfield genius Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, Chisamba Lungu and Isaac Chansa were entrusted with holding the midfield to provide those much needed goals upfront to Mbesuma and Mayuka.

The first half started on a fast note with both sides searching for goals, with Burkina Faso coming closest in the opening two minutes through a Charles Kabore freekick which keeper Mweene saved.

Both teams were forced to make substitutions with Burkina Faso dealt a major blow in the 11th minute after their danger man Alain Traore sustained a hamstring injury and was replaced by Aristide Bance.

Zambia, in the 15th minute, introduced Musonda for the injured Nkausu.

The Chipolopolo had a golden opportunity to take the lead but Mbesuma, with only the keeper to beat, failed to score, shooting straight in the palms of Daouda Diakite.

This was after Chisamba had got the ball from Burkina Faso defender Mady Panandetiguiri with Mayuka playing a dummy to set up Mbesuma, alias King David, who just like in the Nigeria game shot straight at Diakite.

In a bid to strengthen the midfield and sharpen the attack, Renard introduced Mukuka Mulenga for Chansa before bringing in pacey winger Jonas Sakuwaha for Lungu in the 80th minute, as the Chipolopolo continued looking blunt in front of goal.

Line up:

Zambia: Kennedy Mweene, Davies Nkausu (Joseph Musonda 17th), Hichani Himoonde, Stoppila Sunzu, Emmanuel Mbola, Isaac Chansa (Mukuka Mulenga 54th), Rainford Kalaba, Chisamba Lungu (Jonas Sakuwaha 81st), Nathan Sinkala, Emmanuel Mayuka, Collins Mbesuma.

Referee: Neant Alioum

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