Traore, sandy pitch stand in Zambia's way
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — With all four teams in Group C having a chance to reach the African Cup of Nations quarterfinals, defending champion Zambia clearly has the most to lose as it tries to live up to its fans' expectations.
Victory over Burkina Faso on Tuesday would see Zambia advance, while a draw would be enough if Nigeria and Ethiopia play to a lower-scoring stalemate in Rustenburg.
Burkina Faso leads the group with four points, while Zambia and Nigeria each have two and Ethiopia has one.
Zambia coach Herve Renard acknowledged that Zambia must deal with supporters' hunger for success.
"It's like when you are driving a Corolla for many years, and after we give you a Mercedes — you are not happy when you come back to the Corolla," Renard said.
The champion must also contend with the tournament's leading scorer in Burkina Faso's Alain Traore, and will do so on a sandy surface that was criticized by Zambia captain Christopher Katongo.
"To be honest with you the pitch is not so good," he said. "How can you play in the sand?"
Nevertheless, Renard pointed to Zambia's recent record in the African Cup of Nations, which it unexpectedly won for the first time in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea last year.
"Zambia is unbeaten in eight games in the African Cup of Nations. I think there is only one team who can be above us at the moment and that's Ivory Coast," he said. "At the moment we are consistent. I didn't tell you we are perfect, but we're consistent. If we get qualification on Tuesday I think it will be another good performance for us."