Classic Match: African Cup of Nations 2012 – Zambia

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The eagle-eyed amongst you will be puzzled at the spectre of yet another African Cup of Nations on our horizon, just twelve months after the 2012 version. And in a year where we are going to see two Ashes series back-to-back, it appears that the suits who run sport are now just chucking in whatever they fancy, whenever they fancy.

The truth is slightly less exciting – the African football authorities have simply realised that holding their showpiece tournament just months ahead of a World Cup, detracts from its prestige. It is odd numbers all the way from here on.

And so to South Africa, venue for 2013, having swapped with Libya who were originally supposed to host, before a mad civil war broke out in their country. (One grimly suspects they won’t be in great shape to host the rearranged 2017 either.) What is for sure however, is that this competition will not produce a story as magic as that of Zambia’s triumph in 2012, when in the same area that produced their darkest day 19 years before, they shocked the footballing world by beating the Ivory Coast in the final.

It is safe to say they didn’t play the Barcelona way, having recorded the lowest pass completion rate of any side at the tournament. Had they been trying to play possession football, that would have been disastrous. But they weren’t. Rather, they sat deep, looked to absorb pressure and spring quickly forward on the break, using the pace of the two wide-men, Rainford Kalaba and Isaac Chansa, in conjunction with the hold-up play of Emmanuel Mayuka and the intelligence of Christopher Katongo. They were organised, disciplined and played to their strengths.

So, can lightning strike twice? In their last two warm-up games, Zambia lost 2-0 to Angola and drew 0-0 with Morocco. Zambia are 19 at Betfair to repeat their triumph, and we suspect it may be a step too far this time around.

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