Zambia have always been on the fringes of success, establishing a reputation for consistency but never finding themselves able to make the step up to the top of the podium. Twice the southern African country has finished runners-up at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations finals, but they have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup finals.
With the 2010 finals in South Africa, Zambia have set their sights firmly on breaking new ground and filling one of the five qualifying berths that will be on offer to African countries.
Ahead of the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals in the USA, Zambia were within one win of qualifying, while in subsequent years they have also been competitive. It was during their campaign to progress to USA 1994 that a plane carrying the Zambian side en route to Senegal for a qualifier crashed, wiping out almost the entire team.
Yet, within a year, Zambia managed to claw their way back, their newly-assembled side fighting all the way to reach the final of CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994. Zambia's heart-warming recovery was indicative of a rich vein of footballing resources in the copper-rich country, a trend that has continued in the subsequent years.
The Zambian U-20s participated at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 and it is from that side that new coach Herve Renaud will seek to draw a new generation of players to challenge for places at South Africa 2010. Players like Sebastien Mwanza, Emmanuel Mayuka and William Njovu have already won senior caps since the tournament and are challenging for regular berths.
Zambia are also able to call upon more overseas-based players, like captain Chris Katongo, who is at Brondby in Demark, and Andrew Sinkala, the former Bayern Munich reserve team midfielder now playing at Paderborn in the German second division. A pretender to the mantle of Zambia's top player has emerged in the form of burly striker Collins Mbesuma, who was the first Zambia to play in the English Premier League with Portrsmouth and is now competing over in Turkey.
Reaching the finals in 2010 is a major priority for Zambia, given the proximity of the host nation to their own country. Zambia have a long standing rivalry with South Africa and will be very keen to be alongside their regional rivals in the 32-team field.