Zambia can still be proud despite early exit – coach
Zambian coach, Herve Renard, said the country should still be proud of their charges despite failing to defend their title in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations edition.
“It’s better to have won something in your life than not anything at all,” Renard said on the national team’s Afcon triumph a year earlier.
“Before, the team had never won anything and used to go home a lot after the first round.”
The dethroned African champions, Zambia, return home after they became the first title holders to be eliminated in the first round stages since Algeria in 1992.
A year earlier in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, they became the second southern African country after Bafana Bafana in 1996 to lift the coveted continental showpiece.
This time around, Chipolopolo were below par in the finals where they bowed out after their third successive draw in Group C – a 0-0 stalemate with Burkina Faso at Mbombela Stadium last night.
Instead, the Burkinabe and Nigeria, both with five points, will advance to the next stages as Ethiopia also missed out.
Playing in neighbouring South Africa, few expected Zambia to struggle for rhythm in a tournament where they were marked as one of the favourites to win.
The team bowed out having scored a disappointing two goals and conceding twice from their three matches played where the players were the most vocal about the poor state of the pitch, which may have been one contributor to their stuttered campaign.
“If I say the pitch was a problem then people will say I’m crying, even though the Zambian style is to play the ball on the floor,” Renard said.
“The 2012 pitch in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon was much better.”
Stand-in captain Kennedy Mweene agreed with the Frenchman, saying: “I don’t want to go too far to say that the pitch contributed.
“We did not play well, especially in the final third of the pitch.”
However, the moment belonged to Burkina Faso, the surprise group winners.
This is the second time the Stallions have made it past the first round stage.
The other being in the 1998 edition at home where they were semi-finalists under the “White Witchdoctor” Phillipe Troussier.
Now the Belgian, Paul Put, has cooked up miracles and ingredients of his own where he asked for “more pepper and less salt” from his charges against the Zambians.
The Burkinabe will play the second placed team from Group D, which will be decided later today, at Mbombela Stadium on Sunday.
“Our players were disciplined against Zambia. I’m very happy for them because they deserve it,” Put said.
“Now we need to have the mentality and the belief that we can go on further and do better than we’ve ever done.”