Defending champion Zambia's early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations might be unprecedented, but it is certainly nothing to be ashamed about.
It was a 0-0 draw with Burkina Faso that did Zambia in, combined with the fact that Nigeria was a 2-0 winner over Ethiopia. That allowed Nigeria to advance to the next round, while Zambia will go home earlier than expected.
Zambia's elimination marks the first time since 1992 that a defending champ has failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
While that might seem like a disaster for most squads looking to defend their crown, the same doesn't hold true for the Chipolopolo.
For starters, Zambia didn't lose a single match during AFCON, earning three draws, so it isn't as if the Chipolopolo were embarrassed out of the tournament. Sure, Zambia could've played better, but they certainly could've played worse.
Also, Zambia's performance in last year's AFCON should allow fans to keep their heads up high for years to come.
Going into its final match with Ivory Coast in 2012, Zambia was a heavy underdog to the tournament favorite, but the Chipolopolo gave a memorable and gutsy performance that proved they more than belonged with their powerhouse opponent.
The tournament victory was unprecedented in and of itself, as it was the first Africa Cup of Nations title in the history of the country. In fact, it had been nearly two decades since Zambia had reached the final, yet the Chipolopolo were able to emerge victorious.
Such an improbable victory for the Chipolopolo was the perfect way to commemorate the members of the 1993 team, who tragically lost their lives in a plane crash. It was no doubt a source of extra motivation for last year's side, as is the case each year.
Zambia's success also ensured that those players lost, as well as Zambia as a whole, would forever remain in the collective consciousness of people around the globe.
Such a great achievement by the Zambian side should provide more than enough leeway for the team to have a letdown this year. It was quite the gift given to the Chipolopolo fans, so it's only natural that those same fans return the favor after this disappointing finish.
And speaking of that incredible accomplishment from 2012 and the failure of 2013, Zambia coach Herve Renard provided a great quote (per CNN.com):
"It's better to have won something in your life than always qualify for the quarterfinals, but never win anything."
I couldn't have said it any better myself.