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Zambia win dramatic final

Date: Feb 12 2012
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 Zambia outlasted Cote d’Ivoire 8-7 in a penalty dramatic shoot-out at the end of a thrilling final of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations to claim their first-ever continental title on Sunday night.

The teams had been locked at 0-0 at the Stade d'Angondjé in Libreville at the end of a highly entertaining 120 minutes of football in which Ivorian talisman Didier Drogba missed a second half penalty that would have won the game for his side.

And so while Cote d’Ivoire contemplate another finals tournament that ends in bitter disappointment, unlikely heroes Zambia are left to celebrate joyously just kilometres from the scene of their greatest tragedy following the 1993 air crash which killed 18 members of the Chipolopolo national side off the coast of Gabon.

The final was an all-action affair that was surprisingly open as both teams created numerous opportunities and were adventurous in their attacking endeavour.

Zambia might have been ahead inside the first minute when a well-worked corner saw the ball fall to Nathan Sinkala, whose shot was saved by Boubacar Barry in the Ivorian goal.

The Southern African side were dealt a blow on 11 minutes when a tearful Joseph Musonda limped off injured from the left-back position to be replaced by youngster Nyambe Mulenga.

Yaya Toure should have put the Ivorians ahead midway through the first half when a great team move saw Drogba back-heel the ball into his path, but his shot was inches wide with Kennedy Mweene in the Zambian goal beaten.

Emmanuel Mayuka then found himself on acres of space from a corner, but completely missed his kick with no defender in sight and the chance was gone.

A clash of heads left Drogba looking dazed at the start of the second half, but he decided to carry on after being checked over by the medical staff. It is questionable whether that was the right decision though as he did not look the same player after the incident and he fluffed his lines when Cote d’Ivoire were handed the best chance of the game to score.

Isaac Chansa was adjudged to have fouled Gervinho inside the box, even though replays suggested the contact happened outside the area. But Drogba skied the penalty over the bar, his second miss of the tournament from 12 yards.

The game went into extra-time and it was Zambia who came closest to breaking the deadlock as Felix Katongo powered into the penalty-area and his cross found brother Chris, whose goal-bound shot was knocked onto the post and away to safety by Barry.

Max Gradel had two chances to win it for Cote d’Ivoire after that, but first shot wide and then missed the ball completely with the second effort.

The lottery of penalties would have to decide the winner and after the first 14 were successfully converted, suddenly there was major drama.

First Kolo Toure saw his weak effort saved by Mweene, but Rainford Kalaba, such a hero for Zambia in this tournament, could not win it for them when he kicked his spot-kick over the bar.

But the much maligned Gervinho, who looked unwilling to take a penalty, then put his shot wide of the goal and Stoppila Sunzu was able to make history for Zambia by converting his.

After finals disappointments in 1974 and 1994, Zambia finally are able to write their name among Africa’s elite.

But for this ‘Golden Generation’ of Cote d’Ivoire, there will perhaps be one last chance in South Africa in just 11 months’ time when the Africa Cup of Nations will be played again. If not, they will look at this as a giant missed opportunity.

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