Zambia’s first ever Africa Cup of Nations success last year was built on discipline, solidarity and hard work.
The ultimate underdog story, the Chipolopolo's triumph was moving in so many ways, not least because it was a fitting tribute to the 18 players who died in the 1993 plane crash after stopping for fuel in Libreville – the venue for last year’s final.
The squad contained just one player, Emmanuel Mayuka, who played for a top-flight side in Europe.
It was a team without stars, and coach Hervé Renard set the standard for discipline when he sent home the midfielder Clifford Mulenga early in the tournament after he refused to apologize for missing a curfew.
Renard had been a senior coach for only four years when he led Zambia to the title and he based their campaign around quick, counterattacking soccer which often caught opponents cold, although admitted that he had to reign in his players’ attacking instincts.
Zambia dramatically beat hot favorites Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties after a goalless final in Libreville. They had easily seen off Sudan in the quarters and then knocked out heavyweights Ghana in the last four thanks to a goal from Emmanuel Mayuka.
The 44-year-old coach claimed afterwards that ‘the star is the team’ and he will need that mentality and more if Zambia are to have any chance of repeating their heroics again in South Africa.
Renard feels that Zambia have confirmed their status as a major force by beating South Africa 1-0 in a friendly last year and Ghana by the same score in a 2014 World Cup qualifier. There will undoubtedly be more pressure on the Chipolopolo this time around but no less hunger as they look to make history again.
23-man Zambia Africa Cup of Nations Squad:
Goalkeepers: Daniel Munyau (Red Arrows), Kennedy Mweene (Free State Stars, South Africa), Joshua Titima (Power Dynamos)
Defenders: Hichani Himoonde, Francis Kasonde (both TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Emmanuel Mbola (FC Porto, Portugal), Joseph Musonda (Lamontville Golden Arrows, South Africa), Davies Nkausu (SuperSport United, South Africa), Stopilla Sunzu (TP Mazembe, DR Congo)
Midfielders: Isaac Chansa (Henan Construction, China), Noah Chivuta (Free State Stars, South Africa), Rainford Kalaba (TP Mazembe, DR Congo), Christopher Katongo (Henan Construction, China), Felix Katongo (Petro Atletico, Angola), Chisamba Lungu (Ural Sverdlovsk Oblast), Mukuka Mulenga (Power Dynamos), William Njobvu (Hapoel Beer Sheva, Israel), Nathan Sinkala (TP Mazembe, DR Congo)
Forwards: James Chamanga (Dalian Shide, China), Emmanuel Mayuka (Southampton, England) Collins Mbesuma (Orlando Pirates, South Africa), Jacob Mulenga (FC Utrecht, Holland), Jonas Sakuwaha (Al Merreikh, Sudan).
Player to Watch:
Christopher KatongoThe newly crowned BBC African player of the year was a key figure in last February’s success. The 30-year-old beat off the likes of Demba Ba and Didier Drogba to become the first winner from a southern country. The captain scored three goals on route to last year’s final and also netted a penalty in the shoot-out against the Ivory Coast.
What They Say:
Hervé Renard (coach)“I do not underestimate anyone. I am wary of Ethiopia, who eliminated Benin and Sudan, and is a tough team to move. But our two main rivals (in the group) are Burkina Faso, who in Alain Traore and Jonathan Pitroipa have very good individual players, and of course Nigeria, with Stephen Keshi, have just completed a very successful 2012. The Nigerians were absent last year, and they will want to mark their return.” (fifa.com)
Group Matches:21st January, 2013 v Ethiopia
25th January, 2013 v Nigeria
29th January, 2013 v Burkina Faso