JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Coach Herve Renard admitted on Sunday that hosts Zambia were lucky to defeat Zimbabwe in the Cosafa Cup final.
Early and late goals from Alex N'gonga and Kabiso Chongo off free-kicks earned the Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) a 2-0 victory in mining city Ndola.
But had Zimbabwe matched superb build-up play with more clinical finishing, the Warriors could have claimed a record-extending fifth title.
Instead, Zambia achieved a record-equalling fourth title in the southern Africa national team championship, and a first in seven years.
"We did not play well, but the most important thing in a final is to win and that is what we did," France-born Renard told reporters.
"There were not enough 'fresh legs' in the Zambian team and we were lucky to survive and collect the trophy.
"I would like to congratulate Zimbabwe -- they looked the better team in the decider even though we won it."
Renard said the midweek penalty shootout semi-final victory over South Africa after 120 gruelling, goalless minutes took a heavy toll.
"We fought very hard against South Africa to win on penalties and you could see the impact it had on us in the final.
"Zambia can play much better than they did against Zimbabwe, but the most important thing in football is the result."
The Cosafa Cup was the second trophy won by Renard after Zambia defied the odds to lift the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Libreville.
An emotional roller-coaster ride for the Chipolopolo ended with a penalty shootout final triumph over Didier Drogba-skippered favourites the Ivory Coast.
Happy as he was with this result, Renard, a hugely popular figure in Zambia, said it in no way matched their previous achievement.
"There is no comparison between the Cosafa Cup and Africa Cup of Nations titles -- it is a huge gap," he stressed.
Renard now turns his attention to a must-win World Cup qualifier in Ghana during September as Zambia seek a place in the final-round play-offs.
The Cosafa Cup decider was the final match in charge of the Warriors for German coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels, who is returning home to train schoolboys.
"We played some beautiful football, but the long-standing problem of not taking our scoring chances continues to haunt us.
"I was unhappy with some of the refereeing decisions -- we were denied a clear-cut penalty when pressing during the closing stages," he said.
Zambia midfielder Mukuka Mulenga was voted the best player at the 15-day tournament and compatriot Danny Munyau the best goalkeeper.
Botswana striker Jerome Ramatlhakwane won the Golden Boot award for leading scorer with four goals, including a hat-trick against Lesotho.
South Africa finished third behind Zambia and Zimbabwe after fighting back to defeat giantkillers Lesotho 2-1 with Hlompho Kekana hitting the match-winner.