Africa Cup Of Nations 2012 Team Previews: Zambia

Zambia aren't one of the traditional powers of African football, but if recent competitions are any indication, they're a side on the rise. They won their group and pushed Nigeria to penalties in the quarterfinals of the last edition of the Africa Cup of Nations, topped Togo in the first stage of 2010 qualification, and won their 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification group.

Head coach Herve Renard left the team after the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations, but returned to the team in 2011 and guided them to qualification for this tournament. Some of the pieces have changed, but this is, for the most part, the same team that drew Tunisia, defeated Gabon, drew Nigeria and lost to Gabon by just one goal in the last competition.

In the places where they will make changes, they have improved. 20-year-old midfielder Chisamba Lungu looks set to take over the defensive midfield role, and he should be an upgrade over their defensive midfielder in 2010, Thomas Nyrienda. Emmanuel Mayuka, who has had some great seasons for BSC Young Boys and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, will lead the line.

Mayuka is the only player on this team starring for a European team that is contending for continental places on a regular basis, but the players on their team playing in the South African Premier League and for DR-Congo's African club power TP Mazembe are of a higher quality than the average player in this tournament.

Senegal is the strongest side in their group, Group A, and they are unlikely to take points from that match. Libya, a side they proved themselves superior to in qualification, is also in this group. Second place in Group A will likely come down to the final match day, when Zambia takes on co-hosts Equatorial Guinea.

Projected Starting Lineup (4-1-3-2)

GK Kennedy Mweene, LB Nyambe Mulenga, CB Stophira Sunzu, CB Hihani Himoonde, RB Joseph Musonda, DM Chisamba Lungu, LCM Felix Katongo, CM Rainford Kalaba, RCM Isaac Chansa, ST Emmanuel Mayuka, ST Christopher Katongo

Key Player

Emmanuel Mayuka: A regular goal-scorer in the Israeli Premier League, the Swiss Super League and the UEFA Europa League, Mayuka is perhaps the best player in this tournament that the average football fan hasn't heard of.

Prediction

Knocked out in quarterfinals: If Zambia finish runners-up in Group A, they will likely meet Cote D'Ivoire in the quarterfinals. They're a good side, but they're not overcoming the tournament favorites.

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