Zambia coach sets sights on semis

BENGUELA - Zambia's unheralded French coach Herve Renard said his side can cause more upsets at the African Nations Cup if they do not rest on their laurels.

Renard, in his first job as a national coach, has already hit his target by steering Zambia to the last eight - a feat they failed to achieve at their last five Nations Cup finals.

They will face Nigeria in the quarter-finals on Monday.

"I think most people thought this objective was a bit mad but we spoke with the players about it and even though we were in a tough group, we were sure of our potential," Renard told Reuters as his team prepared to return to Lubango on Friday.

"There is a risk now that the players will feel satisfied with what they (have) achieved but it is my job as a coach to get them motivated again."

"It is a bonus for us now but it is a bonus we must want to take. Our new target is to try and get a medal at this tournament even if it is bronze," he added in the interview.

Zambia were a long shot going into the tournament, paired with World Cup-bound Cameroon plus Gabon and Tunisia, two sides who were strong contenders for places at this year's finals in South Africa but ultimately missed out.


However, after beating Gabon 2-1 in Benguela on Thursday, Zambia finished top of Group D on goals scored after a three-way tie in the standings. Cameroon were second.

"There were few people believing in me," said 41-year-old Renard, scathing of doubters in Zambia and having already had several acrimonious run-ins with the country's press.

"People weren't happy when I said Zambia were an average team and that they didn't deserve to go to the World Cup. It hasn't been easy to work but I was ambitious and wanted to do something with them."

Renard said Zambia had many skilful players but the team needed to be better organised, especially in defence.

"We do not have any players with a lot of experience from playing with a major club in Europe and this gets exposed at a tournament like the Nations Cup.

"We should have beaten Cameroon but we made silly mistakes in the end to lose," he added after they led at halftime in Lubango only to lose 3-2 having conceded an 86th minute goal.

"But we can be proud of what we have achieved and I'm sure more teams will now be careful about Zambia and the way they approach us," Renard said.