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Page last updated at 18:40 GMT, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Missing players deal Zambia blow

By Ibrahim Sannie
BBC Sport, Abidjan

Herve Renard
Renard is frustrated by the absence of two of his key players
Zambia's chances of winning the African Nations Championship has been dealt a severe blow as two key squad members are still to join the team.

Chipolopolo will play their first game of the tournament on Sunday against hosts Ivory Coast without skipper Elijah Tana and talented youngster Emmanuel Mbola.

The duo were named in the final 23-man squad but Mbola travelled to Armenia on trials with Pyunik Yerevan while Tana travelled to Angola to sign for Petro Atletico.

It was hoped that they would join before they meet the hosts but with 24 hours to go before the match they have not arrived.

"These two players are key for me but as we talk now they have not arrived which is very frustrating," Zambia coach Herve Renard told BBC Sport.

"We were told that they would arrive before the tournament started but they are still not here and even if they come tonight I will not play them in tomorrow's game.

"I will not play them because they will be too tired for the game against Ivory Coast and this is a blow for us."

Despite the absence of the two players the French manager is convinced that he has enough players in his armoury to propel his side.

"We still have 21 players who are also excellent so they can play their role in helping the team to win the tournament."

Zambia will also play Tanzania and Senegal in Group A in Abidjan.

The two-week tournament is restricted to footballers who play in their country of birth.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe have finally arrived in Boauke for their Group B matches where they face Ghana, Libya and DR Congo.

The Warriors initially threatened to boycott the trip because of a dispute over allowances and appearance fees.

The players wanted guarantees from government that their bonuses would be paid after the cash-strapped federation said it could not afford to pay the players.

But a last-minute intervention by the government convinced the players, who arrived on Friday night three days before they face Ghana in their opening game.

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see also
Anger as Zambia coaches replaced
24 Sep 08 |  African
Renard named as new Zambia coach
07 May 08 |  African
Zambian fans get political ban
18 Sep 08 |  African

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