Defending champions Zambia crash out
Save of the match: The only meaningful save of the match came in the opening seconds as Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene stopped an awkwardly bouncing free kick from Burkina Faso’s Alain Traore that would have placed the Zambians on the back foot in a must win encounter.
Missed opportunity of the match: The first half injury suffered by the crafty Alain Traore robbed the crowd of entertainment in a dour match. A bigger worry for Burkina Faso is the injury-hampered player’s fitness for the knockout stages.
Player to watch: Burkinabe midfield general, Djakaridja Kone, was consistent again as he brilliantly bossed the midfield and won crucial tussles for his team. Kone is the unsung player in the Stallions line up.
The lacklustre African champions, Zambia, were eliminated from the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations after drawing 0-0 with Burkina Faso in their final Group C encounter at Mbombela Stadium tonight.
This is the first occasion since Algeria in the 1992 edition that the cup holders have exited in the first round of the competition.
Instead, surprise log-leaders, Burkina Faso (five points), and Nigeria progress after the latter edged past Ethiopia, winning 2-0 in a simultaneous fixture in Rustenburg.
It has been a disappointing defence of their title for Chipolopolo, where their three draws left them in third place, with the same number of points.
The Super Eagles are above them on five points but with an inferior goal difference to the Burkinabe.
The exciting Ethiopians, whose attacking style of play captured their fans, bow out in bottom place with a single point.
In a miserable first half, the anxious Zambians were pinned back as early as the first minute when a free kick from Burkina Faso’s Alain Traore was nervously stopped by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
It was Traore’s only contribution of the match before the star forward was stretchered off after 11 minutes with an injury, but possibly more as a precaution for the next stages of the competition.
The west Africans surged forward in the 31st minute only for Jonathan Pitroipa to over run the ball before it was cleared by the Zambian defence.
Zambia’s only clear-cut chance upfront came in the 17th minute when Collins Mbesuma had an opening only for his tame shot to be easily held by Daouda Diakite in the Burkina Faso goal.
The second half was no better as Chipolopolo were frustrated before Mbesuma headed wide off goal in the 57th minute.
However, Burkinabe captain Charles Kabore almost struck on a break in the final minutes, but selfishly went for goal himself instead of finding an unmarked Pitroipa on the far end as his shot sailed wide of goal.
There was a final chance for the Zambians in stoppage time as Sunzu Stoppila shot wide with the dethroned champions’ final chance that would have seen them dramatically steal a late berth to the knockout stages.
For Burkina Faso, their small section of fans celebrated the milestone achievement of a second knockout spot in history with their first coming in the 1998 tournament.