Group C – Defending Champions, Eagles and the rest
A change to the schedule means that unless Zambia defend their title in South Africa, they would have been champions for the shortest period Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just 12 months. The African Nations’ Cup (ANC) will now be played in odd-numbered years so as not to clash with World Cups. But it will still take place every two years in January and February which does not solve the problem of them running concurrently with the European leagues.
Still, there is great pride to be had from winning the ANC and few teams know that better than Zambia. A cathartic journey to the trophy took place at the last edition in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The Zambian team visited the site close to Libreville where the plane carrying their 1993 squad crashed, killing them all. They laid flowers in the sea in memory of their fallen comrades and then honoured them by winning the final.
Such fairytales are not supposed to repeat themselves but Zambia are determined not to follow convention. They are desperate to show their victory was not a one-off but will have to overcome tough opponents in the group stage to do that.
Nigeria haven’t had continental success since 1994 but are still regarded as powerhouses of the continent. They’ve battled with internal strife in the lead up but it could serve as a motivator in the main event. Also up against the title holders are ANC originals Ethiopia who were part of the first group of countries to compete in the event but have not been involved in it for 30 years, and Burkina Faso, who have only advanced past the first stage of competition once.
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