12 February 2012

Zambia/Cote d'Ivoire: Chipolopolo Fulfill Destiny and Win Africa Cup of Nations

Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
Zambian goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene battles with Cote d'Ivoire's Gervinho. With the score still at 0-0 at the end of extra time, Zambia overcame the Ivorians 8-7 in a penalty shoot-out.

Zambia won their first African title after beating Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties during the final match of the Orange Africa Cup of Nations played at Stade de l'Amitie in Libreville, Gabon.

The match had ended goalless after extra time with Didier Drogba missing a penalty in the 69th minute during a pulsating game befitting a final.

Tiote, Bony, Bamba, Gradel , Drogba, Tiene, Ya Kona, converted for Ivory Coast and Kolo Toure and Gervinho missed while Chris Katongo, Mayuka, Chansa, Felix Katongo, Mweene, Sinkala, Lungu converted for Zambia while Kalaba missed before Stoppila Sunzu won it for Zambia.

Zambian goalkeeper Mweene was brilliant throughout the game and deservedly saved Kolo Toure's spot kick leaving the Elephants still searching for an African title since 1992.

After an impressive closing ceremony display which thrilled the 28th edition of Orange Africa Cup of Nations had kicked off on an equally upbeat tempo with Zambian captain Christopher Katongo forcing Ivorian defender Siaka Tiene to concede a corner kick in the first minute of the game. Zambia worked out a well laid set piece that could have seen the fastest goal but Nathan Sinkala shot was too close to Barry Copa in goal for the Ivorians who dived to his right and smothered the shot hit from inside the box.

Zambia was forced to pull out Joseph Musonda through injury in the 10th minute to be replaced by Henri Nyambe Mulenga and Chipolopolo maintained their early domination of the Elephants. Emmanuel Mayuka headed onto the roof of the net after Chisamba Lungu had found him with a chip as Zambia continued attacks on Ivorian goal.

Ivory Coast's best chance could have brought the game's opening goal. One swift move in the 29th minute ended up with Didier Drogba shook off a defender before back heeling to Yaya Toure but the midfielder side footed past Kennedy Mweene's right-hand post missing the goal by mere centimeters. Zambia had the crowd cheering as their neat passing game left the Elephants second best for the greater part of the first half. Katongo, Mayuka, Chansa and Sinkala a constant menace to the Ivorian back four. The Ivorian midfield of Chiek Tiote, Yaya Toure. Didier Zokora and Kalou was struggling to keep up with the nimble Zambia midfield anchored by Rainford Kalaba

Ivorians started the second half more attack minded and went close from a free-kick after Sinkala fouled Souleyman Bamba . The chip from Tiote was flicked on just beyond on rushing Yaya Toure at the far post. Gervinho came alive on the right flank and was soon making some fruitful runs as the Elephants woke up from their slumber.

Ivorians were awarded a penalty in the 69th minute after Gervinho went down under a challenge from Chansa. Drogba sent his effort over the cross bar and the drama at Stade de l'Amitie continued. At the other end Katongo's rode a couple of tackles but he did not get the free-kick he was looking for from a Zokora challenge as another Chipolopolo chance went begging. Both coaches Herve Renard for Zambia and Francois Zahoui made changes as the game approached the last twenty minutes. Felix Katongo replaced Henri Nyambe Mulenga while Zokora made way for Didier Ya Konan.

With minutes remaining Ivory Coast almost won it when a flick on from substitute Wilfried Bony who replaced Yaya Toure, found another substitute Max Gradel but he dragged his shot wide as keeper Mweene came off his line.

Zambia were denied by a goal saving timely tackle from Kolo Toure in added time as Mayuka ran onto a delightful ball played in by Chansa. Just as Mayuka was about to shoot Kolo toe-pocked the ball away and the match went into extra time and penalties before Sunzu scored the winning penalty that gave the Southern African side their first title after appearing in their third final.

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