ALEXANDRIA, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Zambia coach Kalusha Bwalya hopes that his country's victory in their final match at the African Nations Cup finals will allow him to continue his development plans for the team.
The former African Footballer of Year came in for intense criticism after the southern African country were bundled out of the tournament following losses in their opening two Group C matches in Egypt.
But a 1-0 win over rivals South Africa in Alexandria on Monday afforded Bwalya some breathing space.
'I have been football for long time and I understand the frustrations of those who want me out but some of the talk is a little bit off the mark,' he told Reuters.
'The media hasn't not helped, there are people out there who want to write on negative things about me and that's a pity.
'Nobody is more disappointed than me not to progress to the second round, I think we should have earned a place in the last eight but were unfortunate.'
Bwalya, who took over as coach in late 2003 and has groomed a youthful side, said he was convinced his team had made good progress.
'We started this project in 2003 and our football has been up to a high standard all the time. That has been important.'
Zambia were in contention for a 2006 World Cup finals place up until they lost their penultimate qualifier last September and eventually finished third in their group behind Togo and Senegal.
'Many of these youngsters will go onto play in many future Nations Cup tournaments,' he said of his team.
'Development for the future looks good with a lot of options and good players coming through. Bearing that in mind, it's going to be important to continue with the process,' Bwalya added.
Previously Bwalya had enjoyed hero status in his own country after his exploits as a player, which included competing in six Nations Cup finals.
He was at the helm of the rebuilding of the Zambian side after 18 players died in an air crash in 1993 with the new-look team emotively reaching the Nations Cup final in Tunisia less than a year later.
But after defeats by Tunisia and Guinea last week, his future as coach was questioned in the Zambian parliament and newspapers in Lusaka have added stinging criticism and revealed previously unpublished details about his private life.
'People must learn to differentiate between football and personal attacks,' he said.