A hat-trick from striker Given Singulama powered Zambia to a shocking 3-0 win over hosts Cote d'Ivoire in the opening match of the maiden edition of the African Nation Championship (CHAN) on Sunday.
The result was a shocker to the home crowd who had filled every corner of the Felix Houphouet Boigny Stadium in Abidjan to cheer their team to victory.
The hosts were clearly overshadowed by the Southern Africans, without two influential players Elijah Tana and Emmanuel Mbola (both yet to arrive) with their plight further worsened by the dismissal of Saoure Florent on 18 minutes following a reckless tackle on his Zambian marker.
The Zambian midfield which revolved around William Njobvu, Lwipa Ignatius and Henry Banda completely and it was just a matter of time that the opener came.
Singulama broke the deadlock on 35 minutes by connecting home from close range with the Ivorian defence torn apart.
The compact play of the Zambian earned them applause of the home crowd who watched in disbelief as their team labored in search of their rhythm.
Cote d'Ivoire coach Georges Kouadio brought on ASEC midfielder N'gossan in the second half and the latter made his presence felt by leading several raids into the Chipolopolo defence.
Four minutes into the half Singulama made it two before completing his hat-trick ten minutes from time.
Georges Kouadio (Coach, Cote d'Ivoire)
“The Zambians took us by surprise and they held on that throughout the game. There is no doubt they were the best team and they deserved the win.
“This is an entirely different side from the team I saw in Uganda last year during the CECAFA Cup, and the new players made the difference.
“Nothing is lost, but we have to win our remaining games to remain on course.”
Herve Renard (Coach, Zambia)
“The Ivorian team was nervous with the huge crowd and we capitalized on that. The expectations were too much and they simply could not live by it.
“We played our normal game and we got the result. This is a good start and we are on course for the final.”