Zambia derailed highrollers Gabon 2-1 on Thursday to qualify for the CAF Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals for the first time in 14 years.
Goals in either half from Rainford Kalaba and the Chinese-based James Chamanga earned Herve Renardâ€™s side, who went into the game footing Group D, a place in the quarters along with Cameroon, who drew 2-2 with Tunisia over in Lubango.
Zambiaâ€™s reward for topping the table was a last eight match up with Group C runners-up Nigeria. Renard said: â€œWhen we came to Angola we said we will qualify for the quarter-finals but people were laughing at us. Against Nigeria, our target is to reach the semi-final.â€
Zambia skipper Chris Katongo added: â€œItâ€™s a great moment for me as a captain to reach the knockout stage of the Nations Cup. We have achieved something, broken the barrier, which a lot of people thought was impossible.â€
Katongaâ€™s Gabon counterpart Daniel Cousin cut a sad figure. â€œWe thought we had qualified but after a short while, we received the news that we did not qualify,â€ he said. â€œWe started well against Cameroon (in their first match), but whatever happened, happened.â€
Zambia burst out of the blocks in Benguela as befitted a team that needed the three points to escape the clutches of Group D â€” whereas the Daniel Cousin-captained Gabon required just a solitary point. On 11 minutes Zambia had their first major opportunity after a neat move involving Felix Katongo and Jacob Mulenga only for the Utrecht striker to shoot high over the woodwork. The Gabon defence was under pressure for the first real time in the tournament as Zambia maintained their energetic start.