Zambia beats struggling South Africa



Zambia received a timely boost ahead of the defense of its African Cup of Nations title with a confident 1-0 win over tournament host South Africa in a friendly on Wednesday.

Fellow Cup of Nations hopefuls Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria all lost at home, however, while Gabon – which didn’t qualify for next year’s continental championship – held Portugal to a surprising 2-2 draw.

Portugal was without injured captain and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and midfielder Nani, who didn’t travel to Gabon.

Elsewhere in Africa, Congo had its Cup of Nations preparations hampered by a 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso in Morocco. Another finalist, Angola, drew 1-1 with Republic of Congo.

Ghana beat Cape Verde 1-0 in Portugal, while Ivory Coast, the Cup of Nations title favorite, impressed in a 3-0 win away in Austria.

Collins Mbesuma’s powerful 64th-minute strike gave Zambia its victory and sealed South Africa’s fate after a disjointed performance at home from Bafana Bafana under new coach Gordon Igesund, who still doesn’t appear to know who his 11 best players are.

”I was disappointed we didn’t win the game tonight,” Igesund said. ”We’re not a team yet.”

Mbesuma’s drive into the top left corner wasn’t the only low point for next year’s tournament host, with the pitch at Soccer City in a poor state after a rock concert and reported problems with fans after the game when Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene was hit by a stone thrown toward the visiting players as they boarded their bus.

Mweene, who plays club football in South Africa, needed stiches to a cut on his head, according to the website.

Morocco lost 1-0 at home to Togo to underline new coach Rachid Taoussi’s tough task at the Cup of Nations after he replaced Belgian Eric Gerets recently.

Switzerland beat Tunisia, also at home, with Xherdan Shaqiri’s injury-time winner. The Tunisians were down to 10 men after defender Rami Bedoui was sent off.

Algeria fell 1-0 at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina after another late goal to complete the misery for the North African trio.

French coach Claude le Roy has transformed Congo into a promising team, but it lost to fellow African Cup finalist Burkina Faso in El Jadida, Morocco, after Rennes midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa’s first-half penalty.

Gabon and Portugal attacked vigorously through much of their match in Libreville, but the first international between the two teams was settled largely by three penalties.

Levy Madinda gave Gabon, co-host of the last Cup of Nations, the lead in the 32nd minute from the spot. Portugal replied with a penalty by Pizzi three minutes later.

Hugo Almeida scored the game’s only goal from open play as he poked home from close range in the 59th minute. But Gabon leveled the score barely 20 minutes later when Andre Biyogo Poko fired home the third penalty.