For the first time in COSAFA Cup history, Zambia will not be playing in the knockout round of the regional competition they have won five times after failing to qualify to the semifinals at the tournament South Africa is hosting at Nelson Mandela Bay.
The outgoing champions have played in the last eight or last four stage of each COSAFA Cup tournament since the inaugural event in 1997.
COSAFA’s second most successful nation, who are one win behind Zimbabwe, made a milestone exit on Wednesday when they drew 0-0 with 2021 tournament hosts Bafana Bafana South Africa at the famed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.
Chipolopolo came into the match in stuttering form after suffering successive Group A defeats to Lesotho 2-1 on July 8 and Eswatini 1-0 on July 10.
They redeemed themselves with a 2-1 victory over Botswana on July 13 at Wolfson Stadium where coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic blamed the allegedly bad pitch and barmy weather for his sides’ poor showing and promised a commanding display at the iconic 2010 FIFA World Cup venue against the hosts.
But Chipolopolo huffed and puffed on hallowed ground against a Bafana team that was blessed with second division players and led by second assistant coach Morena Ramoreboli .
Ramoreboli is standing in for first assistant coach Helman Mkhalele who missed the tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, Chipolopolo only had two tangible chances to score, starting with Salulani Phiri’s 44th minute effort that went wide.
Then second half substitute Gampani Lungu saw his cheeky side-footed volley in stoppage time blocked by Njabulo Ngcobo.
Chipolopolo exit the COSAFA Cup second from bottom in Group A on 4 points, three points less than second placed Eswatini and six points adrift of unbeaten Bafana.
Eswatini and South Africa are through to the semifinals.
Coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic on the other hand now returns to Lusaka to face the music.