Popular ex-Portsmouth, Chelsea and West Ham boss criticises referee after surprise AFCON elimination

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He spent six months as Fratton Park manager, leading the Blues to the 2010 FA Cup final

Former Pompey boss Avram Grant has blamed referee Djindo Louis Houngnandande for Zambia’s surprise Africa Cup of Nations elimination.

Zambia required a draw from their final Group F match against Morocco on Wednesday night to qualify for the competition’s last 16.

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However, Hakim Ziyech netted a 38th-minute winner to crown Morocco group winners and seal a clash with South Africa in the next round.

As a consequence, Zambia finished third in the group with two points, failing to even finish as one of the best third-placed teams, with DR Congo instead joining Morocco in qualification.

Avram Grant's Zambia have been knocked out of the Africa Cup Of Nations at the group stages. Picture: GettyAvram Grant's Zambia have been knocked out of the Africa Cup Of Nations at the group stages. Picture: Getty
Avram Grant's Zambia have been knocked out of the Africa Cup Of Nations at the group stages. Picture: Getty | AFP via Getty Images

It’s huge disappointment for head coach Grant, whose team failed to win a game in the tournament and scored just twice, with draws against DR Congo and Tanzania.

And the former West Ham manager criticised Houngnandande, the Beninese referee from the previous match against Tanzania, who red-carded defender Rodrick Kabwe and also booked Grant in a 1-1 draw.

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‘But what can I do? These things are not in my hands.

‘I think Zambia has made a lot of progress. I am very proud of the boys and everybody in Zambia can be proud of them.

‘They gave everything; they were fighting and showed a lot of good football but unfortunately, we needed to put the ball in the net.’

Grant signed a two-year deal with Zambia in December 2022 and oversaw a strong qualification campaign to reach the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast.

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It represented his first managerial position for four years, having previously served with Indian Super League side NorthEast United in 2018 as a technical advisor.

Avram Grant took Pompey to the FA Cup final against Chelsea in May 2010. Picture: Getty ImagesAvram Grant took Pompey to the FA Cup final against Chelsea in May 2010. Picture: Getty Images
Avram Grant took Pompey to the FA Cup final against Chelsea in May 2010. Picture: Getty Images | Getty Images

Grant had also spent two-and-a-half years as coach of Ghana, leading them to the Africa Cup of Nations final in 2015, where they lost to the Ivory Coast in a penalty shoot-out.

Pompey fans, of course, will remember him from taking them to the 2010 FA Cup final against Chelsea in a campaign which also marked their last in the Premier League.

Leaving his role as the Blues’ director of football, he replaced Paul Hart in November 2009 and oversaw 33 matches, which included five league wins, and was a popular figure among supporters.

He quit for West Ham following relegation and in his long career has also managed Chelsea, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Partizan Belgrade.

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