Libya aim to end 30-year drought
© AFP

Fairytale qualifiers Libya have not won at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations since defeating Zambia when they hosted the tournament 30 years ago.

The Mediterranean Knights must repeat that feat when they face the Copper Bullets at the 35,000-seat Estadio de Bata on Wednesday to retain a realistic chance of reaching the quarter-finals from Group A at the 2012 championship.

Libya conceded a late goal and lost 1-0 to co-hosts Equatorial Guinea at the same venue last Saturday in the opening match of the biennial three-week African football showcase.

A few hours later at the same stadium Zambia caused the first shock of the mini-league phase by scoring two early goals and conceding only one against fancied Senegal as they defended desperately under relentless second-half pressure.

Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta was part of an amazing chapter in Libyan football history as the team risked their lives travelling abroad to play elimination matches last year while civil war raged in the country.

Midfielder Walid El Khatroushi joined the rebels who ended the four-decade rule of Moamer Kadhafi before being persuaded to exchange an assault rifle for football kit.

My team wants to bring joy to the Libyan people after all the suffering they went through last year.
Libya coach Marcos Paqueta

"This is not the end of the story," insisted former Saudi Arabia handler Paqueta, "because we still have two group matches to play and every game is a different story."

"We are going to face Zambia and Senegal - the best two teams in our group - and it is going to get harder. My team wants to bring joy to the Libyan people after all the suffering they went through last year."

Zambia are jubilant after a win that meant so much because the 1993 national squad was flying to Senegal for a FIFA World Cup™ tie when their air force plane plunged into the Atlantic Ocean and all 30 on board died.

"I can assure our nation we will not underestimate Libya, who we failed to defeat in two qualifiers for this tournament," stressed long-serving Zambia midfielder Isaac Chansa.

"The atmosphere within our camp is very good," he added, "and we are confident of going very far in this tournament with the coach (Herve Renard) demanding nothing less than a semi-finals place."

While Libya fight to survive, Zambia know maximum points could seal a last-eight place and give them a genuine chance of topping the table and avoiding co-favourites Côte d'Ivoire in the quarter-finals.