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By Mark Gleeson
DURBAN, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Champions Zambia must win their last group game against Burkina Faso in Nelspruit on Tuesday to stand any chance of reaching the African Nations Cup quarter-finals.
Two below-par performances in their opening matches have left Zambia with two points and in a tight corner, where they need victory to leapfrog Group C leaders Burkina Faso who have four points.
Zambia have shown little of the form that saw them win the Nations Cup one year ago and even relied on goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene's 85th-minute penalty against Nigeria to salvage a draw.
Burkina Faso have emerged as Zambia's surprise rivals for top billing in Group C after beating Ethiopia 4-0 in Nelspruit last Thursday.
A draw will be enough to see them through to the quarter-finals for the first time in their last six attempts and Alain Traore has recovered from an ankle injury to emerge as the tournament's top scorer with three goals.
Nigeria, who like Zambia have also drawn their opening two games, start as favourites to overcome Ethiopia in the other group match at Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.
They might have been better placed had they not conceded a last-gasp equaliser to Burkina Faso in their first game, followed by Zambia's controversial late penalty against them.
Both Ethiopia and Nigeria could be without key players for the games due to injury, said their respective coaches on Monday.
On Monday Ghana and Mali joined Group A teams South Africa and Cape Verde Islands in the quarter-finals.
Ghana topped Group B after beating Niger 3-0 in Port Elizabeth and Mali went through in second place following their 1-1 draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo in Durban. (Editing by Tom Pilcher; firstname.lastname@example.org +27828257807 Messaging email@example.com)