AFCON Profile: Zambia
Last Updated: January 18, 2012 10:32am
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1964 Zambia have distinguished themselves as one of the preeminent footballing nations on the continent
If Zambia's footballing credentials were rated solely on their performances on the global stage, the landlocked country would struggle to get as much as an honourable mention. Just last year the Southern Africans plumbed new depths, registering their lowest ever FIFA ranking of 101. It was a depressing decline for a country ranked 15th in the world five years earlier.
Since gaining independence from Britain in 1964 Zambia have distinguished themselves as one of the preeminent footballing nations on the continent. Their exploits, often in the face of adversity, have won them the admiration and respect of their rivals.
Chipolopolo, as they are known by their fans, are two-time winners of the CECAFA Cup - the oldest football tournament in Africa - as well as having finished runners-up on five occasions, the last time in 2006.
They have been crowned COSAFA Cup champions three times and finished as runners-up in the competition on five occasions.
Kalusha Bwalya, the incumbent president of the Football Association of Zambia, is arguably his country's greatest player of all time. The former PSV Eindhoven star plundered a hat-trick for Chipolopolo in a 4-0 victory over Italy in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, for what remains one of the proudest moments in the history of Zambian football.
Herve Renard led the Copper Bullets to the quarter-finals in 2010 for the first time in 14 years and the Frenchman will be looking to match or better that feat in his second spell in charge.
PREVIOUS AFCON INVOLVEMENTS:
Zambia have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations 14 times, finishing as runners-up twice - once upon their tournament debut in 1974 before repeating the feat in 1994.
Chipolopolo's progress to the final of the 1994 was especially impressive considering this was achieved with a new-look team. Months earlier on April 27, 1993 Zambia had lost their entire first-team squad when an aeroplane carrying the team to a 1994 World Cup qualification match crashed killing all on board.
Zambia will be shorn of the services of striker Jacob Mulenga, midfielder Justin Zulu and defensive midfielder Thomas Nyirenda. However Renard will be able to call on James Chamanga after the China-based striker's injury suffered in the build-up to the squad announcement proved not to be serious.
A significant proportion of the squad ply their trade abroad, with captain Chris Katongo, Emmanuel Mayuka and Chisamba Lungu all based in Europe.
However, the core of the 23-man strong squad, among them Collins Mbesuma, Isaac Chansa, Kennedy Mweene, Joseph Musonda and Clifford Mulenga, are employed by South African Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs.
ONE TO WATCH:
Arguably one of the most lethal finishers to have played in South Africa's top-flight, Golden Arrows hitman Collins Mbesuma could prove a figure in the Zambian attack.
The 27-year-old striker was named PSL Player of the Season in 2005 after scoring a remarkable 35 goals in one season with Kaizer Chiefs, his goal scoring feats subsequently earning him a move to Portsmouth in the English top-flight.
After a frustrating two years with Pompey Mbesuma left the club in search of regular first-team football.
A short spell with Turkish outfit Bursaspor followed, before the striker returned to South Africa for stints with Mamelodi Sundowns and Moroka Swallows.
With five goals in 15 appearances for Arrows this season, the burly forward is expected to form a potent attacking partnership with skipper Chris Katongo.
FIFA Rank: 79
Coach: Herve Renard
Captain: Chris Katongo
Nickname: Chipolopolo (The Copper Bullets)
Best AFCON finish: Runners-up (1974, 1994)
Previous AFCON finish: Quarter-finals
Goalkeepers: Kalililo Kakonje, Joshua Titima, Kennedy Mweene.
Defenders: Nyambe Mulenga, Hichani Himonde, Francis Kasonde, Stopilla Sunzu, Kampamba Chintu, Davies Nkausu, Joseph Musonda.
Midfielders: Felix Katongo, Rainford Kalaba, Nathan Sinkala, Chisamba Lungu, Chris Katongo, Clifford Mulenga, Isaac Chansa, Noah Chivuta, Jonas Sakuwaha.
Strikers: Evans Kangwa, Emmanuel Mayuka, Collins Mbesuma, James Chamanga.