Zambia win AFCON title

2012-02-13 06:24
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 early corner.

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 line.

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.

Read more on:    afcon


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