Monday, February 13, 2012



Devastated Didier Dogba of Ivory Coast
Jubilant Katongo of Zambia carting the  prize away


Zambia beat tournament favorite Ivory Coast 8-7 in a penalty shootout to win soccer’s Africa Cup of Nations for the first time.
The teams failed to score through 120 minutes of play in last night’s final in Libreville, Gabon. After 14 penalties were converted, Kolo Toure and Gervinho missed for Ivory Coast and Zambia’s Rainford Kalaba also fired over. Stoppila Sunzu’s shot then found the top corner to secure the title.
Zambia, the runner-up in 1974 and 1994, becomes the first southern African country to win the biennial continental championship since South Africa in 1996. The victory came 19 years after 18 members of the Zambian team died in a plane crash close to where the final was played in the Gabonese capital. Current team members said during their run to the championship that they were motivated by the memory of the 1993 squad.
“We know what we wanted to honor this evening,” Zambia coach Herve Renard said in comments on the tournament’s website. “It was a sign of destiny, written in the sky, there was a force with us.”
Ivory Coast, whose captain Didier Drogba missed a penalty kick in regulation play, failed to claim the title after going through the entire tournament without allowing a goal. The Elephants, who won the 1992 edition, also lost the 2006 final in a penalty shootout to Egypt.
“It’s difficult to end this way after playing very well at the tournament; scoring nine goals and not conceding,” Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui said in comments on the tournament’s website. “We came here with a lot of ambition.”

Drogba’s Miss

Drogba glared at the penalty spot after side-footing his 70th-minute kick over the crossbar. Ivory Coast substitute Max Gradel shot inches wide of the post with three minutes remaining.
Zambia went closest to scoring in extra time when Elephants goalkeeper Boubacar Barry deflected Chris Katongo’s shot against the post after the Zambian captain had been set up by his younger brother Felix.
In the shootout, Zambia goalie Kennedy Mweene scored with the 10th penalty kick to take it to sudden death and five kicks later dived to his left to stop Toure’s shot. Kalaba then fired over the crossbar and Arsenal striker Gervinho also sent his effort high to give Sunzu the chance to win it.
“It is wonderful to be African champions and words cannot describe how happy we are,” Mweene said. “I hear that in Lusaka the city and the country has gone wild and I don’t even know if our plane will be able land when we return due to the number of people at the airport.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Baynes in Sydney at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at