13 February 2012

Africa: Chipolopolo Trample the Elephants to Fulfill Destiny With Africa Title

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
Chipolopolo celebrate winning the title for the first time.

Zambia's football team members have finally managed to appease the spirits of their compatriots who died in a plane crash while on national duty in 1993.

With a deserved maiden Africa Cup of Nations trophy won in post-match penalty shoot-out for an 8-7 final result over pre-tournament favourites Cote d'Ivoire, the Chipolopolo Boys head to Lusaka with heads held high.

Ivoirians Kolo Toure and Gervinho, as well as Zambia's Rainford Kalaba, missed the target after all the first five kicks had hit the net for a tense sudden death contest.

His scoring in the shoot-out notwithstanding, Elephants' captain Didier Drogba blew a golden chance for the West Africans, his 70th-minute shot after Gervinho was brought down by Clifford Mulenga going over the bar.

After a great run down the right, substitute Felix Katongo slid a low ball to his brother Christopher, whose effort bounced off the post after hitting goalkeeper Boubacar Barry's foot.

The better side

The Chipolopolo were the better side and played a more positive, cohesive game at the Stade de l'Amitie.

Prior to kick-off, the Zambians sang in their bus and coach Herve Renard sported his lucky white shirt which he has worn at every one of his team's games at this tournament. It worked magic.

There were no surprises when the team line-ups were announced. Emmanuel Mayuka came in for James Chamanga while Chisamba Lungu joined the midfield as Francis Kasonde dropped to the bench.

Davies Nkausu moved into defence for the Zambian Copper Bullets. The Elephants' semi-final squad remained unchanged.

Packed with Europe-based talent and on a run of five wins without conceding a goal, Cote d'Ivoire were expected to overshadow the Southern African underdogs.

But it was the Zambians who had the early threat.

After forcing a corner kick within 60 seconds of kick-off, the ball came through to Nathan Sinkala and his low drive brought a superb save from Barry, who sprung to his right.

Soon after, Gervinho, with plenty of space on the right, had his cross behind Drogba.

Salomon Kalou almost slipped Drogba through but Zambia defender Joseph Musonda was alert to clear the danger, though at a price as he limped off in tears after only 11 minutes and was replaced by Nyambe Mulenga.

Looked nervous

Rainford Kalaba's 30-metre shot came off Cheik Tiote on the edge of the Elephants' wall for a fruitless Zambia corner.

Cote d'Ivoire's best chance came in the 30th minute.

After one-touch play by Gervinho and Gosso Gosso, Drogba back-heeled the ball to Yaya Toure only for the Manchester City midfielder and African Player of the Year to drill it past the post.

The Ivorians oddly looked nervous in midfield, given their pedigree, as Zambia out-ran their mean defence and star-studded attack.

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