Africa Cup of Nations reigning champions the Chipolopolo of Zambia became the first defending champions to be bundled out at the group stages since Tunisia in 1992.
Herve Renard’s side bowed out of the competition after mustering a disappointing 0-0 draw against lowly Burkina Faso who surprisingly topped the Group C ahead of Nigeria.
The Chipolopolo needed a win to guarantee their progress to the quarterfinals but were restricted by a stubborn Stallions defence as they drew their third game in a row.
Nigeria grabbed the runners up spot in the group thanks a 2-0 win over Ethiopia. The Super Eagles secured the vital win courtesy of two penalties in the last ten minutes of the game from Victor Moses.
With time ticking, Stephen Keshi’s side looked on course of crashing out before Moses was brought down in the penalty box by Walyas Antelopes’ defender Alula Girma. The Chelsea winger stepped forward and converted the spot kick to the relief of the increasingly frustrated Nigerian fans. The West Africans had conceded two late goals in their draws against Burkina Faso and Zambia and it could have been a case of déjà vu hadn’t Vincent Enyeama pulled a stunning save barely three minutes later from a Said Saladin effort.
A quick counter-attack by the 1994 champions resulted in Moses being fouled in the box again this time by Ethiopia custodian Sasay Bancha who got sent off after picking his second yellow card. With all substitutions made, the East Africans fielded an outfield player in goal and Moses made no mistake from 12 yards converting low and into the net to make it 2-0 and kill the game.
It was surprising to see Nigerian players not pressing for more goals which could have secured them top spot on goal difference and thus seen them avoid Didier Drogba-led Cote d’Ivoire in the quarters. Burkina Faso will face Togo or Tunisia in their quarterfinal match. The last matches in the group stages will see Algeria tackle Ivory Coast who have already qualified while Togo and Tunisia clash in a winner-takes-all showdown.
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