Defending champions Zambia crash out of Africa Cup
Updated: Tuesday, 29 Jan 2013 20:08
Defending champions Zambia dropped out of the Africa Cup of Nations with a whimper as they drew their final Group C game against Burkina Faso 0-0.
Needing to better Nigeria's result against Ethiopia - or hope to go through on the fair play rule if they matched it - Zambia were disappointing as they squandered the desperately few chances they created against opponents hamstrung by the early loss of the tournament's leading scorer Alain Traore through injury.
Zambia might argue they were hardly helped by a terrible surface at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, but then the pitch probably played a big role in the early exit of Traore.
The striker began the match with heavy taping on his thigh and lasted only seven minutes on the surface - which appeared more sand than turf - before exiting on a stretcher.
Zambia suffered an injury of their own moments later when Davis Nkausu went off, but of greater concern was their profligacy in front of goal, with Collins Mbesuma soon wasting what would prove the best chance of the match.
Burkina Faso squandered possession and the ball fell to Mbesuma in a huge amount of space on the edge of the area, only for the striker to shoot tamely at the goalkeeper.
With no goals in either game at this stage, bookings might have been crucial, but it was of more immediate significance that the referee let off Zambia's Joseph Musonda, already on a yellow card, after a late challenge shortly before half-time.
They ended the first 45 minutes with another good opening, but Rainford Kalaba headed straight at the goalkeeper after Burkina Faso failed to deal with a routine cross.
Burkina Faso created a good chance early in the second half but Bakary Kone could not get a clean header from close range.
Mbesuma then wasted another opening, forcing his way to the near post to meet a cross, only to head way over the crossbar.
Jonathan Pitroipa had a late chance to kill Zambia off, but instead they were left to be the architects of their own downfall, while Burkina Faso advanced to the quarter-finals.