Defending champions Zambia have kissed goodbye to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after failing to salvage a win over Burkina Faso in a tensed up match played at Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium in the Republic of South Africa. Both teams knew the importance of the game hence it could be seen that though playing purposeful, the boys were playing under pressure. But it was Burkinabe that had the last laugh having squeezed their way to the quarter-finals.
With the goal-less encounter, and combined with Nigeria’s win over Ethiopia in Rustenburg, the Zambians have indeed being sent packing along with the Ethiopians.
However for Burkina Faso, the feat is worth a double celebration being the first time since 1998 to reach that far.
Coming to the game, Chipolopolo, as Zambia is renowned, had some brilliant moments through man of the match Rainford Kalaba and colleagues Collins Mbesuma and Clifford Mulenga at different times.
And Burkina’s Etalons could have convincingly buried the Chipolopolo boys in the dying minutes but Jonathan Pitroipa failed to make proper use of a Charles Kabore cross.
Unlike Zambia who has stumbled without a win, Burkina Faso had a cushion of a 4-0 massacre over Ethiopia. The three draws were no good to reigning champions.
Ironically, both teams lost their danger men after picking injuries. The tournament’s top scorer Alain Traore limped off just after playing 12 minutes, while Zambia lost the services of Davies Nkausu few minutes later.
It must be painful for the Chipolopolo boys who had a rare courtesy call by their state president before the tournament kicked off. The Zambian leader delivered a goodwill message while youth and sports minister revealed that the players would each get US$90,000 if they retained the cup.
He also indicated that each player would get US$20,000 if they qualified to the finals. But all is lost.
After the match, Zambia’s Kalaba said it is sad to have failed to go far but in sports it is part of life, as such they have to forget and start mastering for next year’s world cup games, while his coach Herve Renard was lost of words for the un believable outcome. But for the Burkinabe coach Paul Put, it is a historic.
Nigeria is the other team in Zambia’s group which also had Ethiopia that has sailed through. But Burkina Faso has finished top ahead of Nigeria while Zambia comes third.
Neighboring Malawi whose citizens had put their weight behind Zambia now left have South Africa only to give their morale, as that’s the remaining team in their region at the Orange Africa Cup of Nations. As hosts, a lot of pressure is also piling on South Africa to display talent that would see them smile at the end of the tournament.
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