Bata - Zambia were crowned Africa Cup of Nations champions with an 8-7
sudden-death penalty shoot-out final win over Ivory Coast after the
match had ended 0-0 after extra time.
Chipolopolo honoured the memory of the 1993 plane crash off the
Gabon coast that wiped out one of their most promising national squads
by claming the continents ultimate prize.
Stophira Sunzu scored the final penalty to ensure the coveted
trophy returned to Southern Africa for the first time since 1996 when
South Africa beat Tunisia in the final.
But the outcome could have been so different had Didier Drogba
not missed a penalty in the 70th minute after Gervinho had been upended
in the box by Isaac Chansa.
It was a truly memorable final though with both side playing some
impressive free-flowing football that didn't let up until the final
whistle on 120 minutes.
Zambia enjoyed the first real chance of the match as Nathan
Sinkala forced Boubacar Barry to save low to his right following an
Joseph Musonda was then forced to slide in on Gervinho to deny
the striker a scoring chance but that moment proved to be the veteran
defender's last as he was substituted through injury.
Emmanuel Mayuka was a constant threat for Chipolopolo and he came
close with header after 14 minutes before Yaya Toure went agonisingly
wide on the half hour following a fine passage of play by the Ivorians.
Jean-Jacques Gosso's cross from the right found Drogba whose back
heel was perfectly placed for his Chelsea teammate, but the striker's
effort missed the far post by a whisker.
The wet conditions began to play havoc with the players as the
pitch cut up underfoot with neither side enjoying any further clear cut
chances in the first half despite the frenetic pace of the game.
Drogba sustained a head injury at the start of the second period
and despite given the all-clear to carry on he appeared sluggish for
much of the remainder of the tie.
Gervinho smashed a shot against the side netting at the Ivorians
tried in vain to break down their determined opponents and must have
thought their chance had come when they were awarded a penalty with just
20 minutes of the match remaining.
Drogba, however, skied his effort - much to the delight of Kennedy Mweene in the Zambia goal.
Max Gradel, who had made his introduction, for Salomon Kalou, 10
minutes earlier gave the Elephants even more pace on the flanks and
provided Drogba and Co. with a number of scoring opportunities that they
failed to take advantage of.
He did, however, waste a glorious chance to find the target
himself, as after turning Davies Nkausu in the box and onto his favoured
left-foot, he rolled a shot just wide of the far post.
Kolo Touré denied Mayuka in the dying moments of the match with a
last-gasp clearance but with the game still all square, the players
prepared for an extra 30 minutes.
Mweene continued to show his class as Ivory Coast peppered the
Zambian goal with balls into the box before Boubacar Barry denied
Christopher Katongo with an instinctual save as he stuck out a boot to
deflect his shot onto a post.
Substitute Didier Konan Ya came close in the dying moments of the
match with a dipping shot that flew just over Mweene's goal before
another replacement, Wilfried Bony looked set to beat Mweene to the ball
from a flick-on from Drogba but the keeper put his body on the line to
deny the opportunity.
That proved to be the last chance of the tie and it was down to the lottery of penalties.
Cheick Tioté, Christopher Katongo, Wilfried Bony and Emmanuel
Mayuka all buried their spot-kicks before Mweene denied Sol Bamba, but
the kick was ordered to be retaken with the keeper having moved from his
Bamba scored at the second attempt before normal service was
resumed. Isaac Chansa, Max Gradel, Felix Katongo, Didier Drogba and
Kennedy Mweene all netted, sending the shootout into sudden death.
Siaka Tiéné, Nathan Sinkala, Didier Konan Ya and Chisamba Lungu
all added to the tension of the encounter with their successful
penalties before Kolo Touré saw his effort saved.
Burt Rainford Kalaba reused to be the hero for his side as he
sent his penalty over the bar, giving Gervinho a chance to win it for
the Ivory Coast.
But despite a pep talk from Drogba, the Arsenal youngster put his
effort wide, leaving Stophira Sunzu to make no mistake and send the
stadium wide with delight.
Zambia came out tops on an emotional night by the slimmest of margins that saw them crowned Africa Cup of Nations champions.