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Rustenburg - Zambia departs South Africa this week as the nation that had the shortest reign ever as Africa Cup of Nations champions.
While this was due to the tournament being held only a year after their triumph in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, so as to stage the tournament in odd years, there was a sense that the Copper Bullets had reached their nadir last year, and that it was always going to be difficult to repeat.
Before the 0-0 draw against Burkina Faso on Tuesday in Nelspruit that led to their elimination, coach Herve Renard defended captain Christopher Katongo.
“What do you want me to say today? We have to win or you will ask me about Christopher Katongo?” Renard said Sunday. “I know your questions in advance. Go to the streets and ask the people what they are thinking. They know football maybe better than me and you.”
Comparing his sides style of football and stunning victory last year to their current struggles, the Frenchman choose a car metaphor that stoked the ire of many people associated with the Copper Bullets.
“I would like to say one joke. When you have been driving a Corolla for so many years and we give you a Mercedes, you are not happy when you go back to a Corolla,” Renard said Monday.
“Meaning: in Zambia after driving a Corolla for a long time now, you begin to think you have the best team in the world. This is a big mistake.”
The Copper Bullets did not at any point during their 2013 campaign suggest they had the tools required to defend their title.
A poor 1-1 draw against 10-man Ethiopia was two points wasted, before being lucky to come back and draw against Nigeria 1-1 when the two sides met in Nelspruit.
Another stalemate against Burkina Faso saw the team become the first defending champions to not make it beyond the group stage since 1992. Zambia's tournament, like that Corolla, just could not make it out of second gear.