CHINGOLA, Zambia (Reuters) - Libya tearfully celebrated probable qualification for next year’s African Nations Cup finals after a heroic defensive display forced a 0-0 draw in Zambia Saturday.
But they will have to wait for other results from Saturday’s later matches before being sure of their place in the 2012 tournament in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Libya played all but one of their six-match qualifying program away from the country after the rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime forced them to play two ‘home’ matches at neutral venues.
Their achievement is made even more remarkable by the fact their domestic league has been suspended since March, denying most of their national team players regular competitive action.
The stalemate in Chingola also ensured Zambia finished top of Group C by a single point from the unbeaten Libyans, who are likely to qualify as one of the best-placed runners-up once the weekend’s final set of qualifiers are completed.
“We didn’t play that well but that doesn’t really matter. It is a historic day for us,” Libya’s Brazilian coach Marcos Paqueta, who has stuck with the job despite no payment for the last six months, told reporters.
He and his players danced and celebrated after the draw, many of them in tears after a taking the precious point.
Goalkeeper Samir Aboud, 39, made two crucial first-half saves while there was a plethora of key second-half tackles to deny Zambia’s attackers.
“This is for all Libyans, for our revolution,” said Aboud, whose agile saves made him look like a 21-year-old.
Libya did have some good fortune, twice seeing the ball bounce back off their crossbar but they might have scored themselves when Ahmed Zuway headed against the woodwork just after the hour mark.
“I’m happy for them, they are a brave team to have gone through what they have with the war,” said Zambia’s Italian coach Dario Bonetti.
Editing by Mark Meadows