ZAMBIA midfield ace Rainford Kalaba says the earlier the players put the disappointment of the Africa Cup of Nations elimination behind them, the better for the team in its quest for 2014 Brazil World Cup qualification.
And this is the general view of the players as they soak in the disappointment of Zambia, as defending champions, being kicked out of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations championship at group stage.
Zambia were knocked out of the competition after drawing all the three Group matches and finishing third behind Burkina Faso and Nigeria both of which got five points.
Ethiopia ended at the tail with one point.
Kalaba said he and the other players have learnt their lessons from the three group matches but it is now time to focus on the 2014 World Cup qualifications.
This will be against Lesotho twice in March, then Sudan in June and wrap it up against Ghana.
“We now have to focus on the World Cup qualifiers. We have to move forward,” Kalaba said.
He is certain that the disappointment of an early exit from the AfCON finals will not adversely affect the players’ resolve to qualify for the World Cup.
“We have discussed as a team. The coach told us to look ahead because even if you look back nothing will change,” Kalaba said.
On the decisive Group match against Burkina Faso, Kalaba said a draw was not a bad result though not good enough.
“We could have won, we had chances but we didn’t utilise them,” he said.
Kalaba, a great passer of the ball, also said the state of the pitch adversely affected Zambia’s game.
Versatile midfielder Chisamba Lungu agrees that the pitch was too sandy for Zambia to fully express itself but the team will not use that as an excuse.
He said an early exit is a good lesson from which the team can learn something for use in future matches.
“I learnt one or two lessons like the importance of utilising your chances,” Lungu said.
He too said he will not allow the disappointment of elimination to cloud his focus on the World Cup qualifiers.
“ We just need to keep together as a team so that we forge ahead in World Cup qualifiers,” he said.
Striker Jacob Mulenga too said the disappointment of the exit should not weigh down the team’s goal to qualify for the World Cup.
Coach Herve Renard reiterated that Zambia’s elimination was largely due to failure to beat 10-man Ethiopia in the opening match. “We have to win games,” he said, adding: “It is important for Zambia to get back on its feet because in life when you are down you need to get up yourself. You do not expect anyone to lift you off the ground.”