JOHANNESBURG, Jan 9 – African champions Zambia are heading toward the 2013 Cup of Nations with a streak of four winless matches after a 0-0 midweek draw with Morocco at the Rand Stadium in a tournament warm-up.
Despite dominating possession Chipolopolo (The Copper Bullets) wasted several scoring chances and when Mukuka Mulenga unleashed a powerful shot eight minutes from time, goalkeeper Nadir Lamyaghri deflected it on to the woodwork and the ball was cleared.
In the 72nd minute Joseph Musonda’s kick from the left went just wide, bringing the small but vocal group of supporters to their feet in disappointed excitement.
Though short of a win, the result came as a relief to France-born Zambia coach Herve Renard, who has come under media fire after friendly losses in Saudi Arabia and Tanzania last month and to Angola in Johannesburg last Saturday.
“Doing the preparations, we can see the players are not 100 percent yet,” he told a post-match media conference.
“It’s normal,” he said of what he called a training match.
“It’s my fourth Africa Cup. We’ll do our best. We’re not Ivory Coast, we’re not Ghana.
“Why do you think we come to the Africa Cup? To drop out in the first round?
“There are 13 days till our first game. We are better than three days ago and we will be better in three days,” he added.
Zambia, who upset Ivory Coast in the 2012 final, also did poorly in pre-tournament friendlies last year.
They face Norway in Ndola and Namibia in Nelspruit before the Africa Cup kicks off on January 19 in Johannesburg.
Morocco coach Rachid Taoussi was happy for the practice against the continental champions.
“For Morocco, playing against the African champions was psychologically very important,” he said.
“It gives players confidence.”
His expectations of the tournament were modest, but ambitious against their recent track record.
“Morocco didn’t qualify in 2010. In 2012 we fell out in the first round. This time we’d like to reach the quarter-finals,” he told AFP.
Zambia are in Group C with Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Nigeria while Morocco face hosts South Africa, Angola and the Cape Verde Islands in Group A of a 22-day championship.