The Chipolopolo of Zambia are not dark horses when it comes to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON), but they have not been a strong side since emerging as surprise AFCON champions in 2012, beating favorites Ivory Coast on penalties after a 0-0 draw in the final.
To many Africans, the main story about the Chipolopolo of Zambia is the unfortunate tragedy that struck the team when the military plane (REG: AF-319) transporting the team to Senegal for a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifier crashed on April 27, 1993, resulting in the death of all 30 passengers and crew, including 18 players.
With such a dark cloud cast over AFCON 1994, the competition continued, and Nigeria faced the hastily assembled second team of Zambia in the finals, defeating them.
During the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, Zambia finished third in the group, but in 2010, they faced Nigeria in the quarter-finals and lost on penalties. The best AFCON in Zambia's history occurred in 2012, winning their first title after defeating Ivory Coast in a dramatic penalty shootout.
Looking at AFCON 2024, the Chipolopolo of Zambia appears decent to pull upsets against other teams, aiming to disrupt the order.
Despite missing three straight AFCON tournaments, Zambia, on paper, is capable of winning the upcoming 2023 Africa Cup of Nations, according to Captain Lubambo Musonda, expressing the team's excitement to return to AFCON.
Zambia showed potential in the qualification campaign, finishing top of their group and recording strong results against Ivory Coast, Comoros, and Lesotho.
Appointing former Chelsea FC coach Avram Grant, Zambia aims to progress past the AFCON group stages and into the quarter-finals, with Grant meshing Zambia's golden class of players with a sprinkle of the old guard.
Grant announced his main squad for AFCON 2024, featuring Lawrence Mulenga in goal, a consistent back four, Emmanuel Banda and Kelvin Kapumbu in midfield, and an attacking trio with Fashion Sakala, Lameck Banda, and Leicester striker Patson Daka.
Grant must leverage the array of stars at his disposal to ensure a strong performance in AFCON and set the team up for success.