Zambia claim Afcon crown
ZAMBIA are the football champions of Africa. Chipolopolo claimed the continental crown after beating Ivory Coast 8-7 in sudden death of the final of the 28th instalment of the Africa Cup of Nations at a wet Stade de l'Amitie in Libreville last night.
Both teams finished 0-0 in regulation and the match was forced into extra time that also failed to produce a winner.
Zambia were determined to win the tournament in honour of the players who perished in the 1993 plane crush en route to a World Cup qualifier in Dakar, Senegal.
Zambia dominated the first half but failed to translate their dominance into goals.
Favourites Ivory Coast could have wrapped up the encounter in the second half but the trusty Elephants skipper and Chelsea striker Didier Drogba wasted a great chance to break the deadlock on 70 minutes when he blazed over a penalty awarded for the west African country after Isaac Chansa was adjudged to have pushed Gervinho inside the danger box.
Meanwhile, Gabon president Ali Bongo's mother sang for fans at the closing ceremony ahead of the final.
Patience Dabany performed the event's theme tune and performers ran across the field with the flags of the competing countries.
The president watched from the VIP section as his mother entertained the crowd before giant images of the African continent and Gaguie - the tournament's gorilla mascot - were projected onto the pitch.
There was also fireworks and holograms.
Fifa president Sepp Blatter earlier presented a pennant to both host countries' presidents, Bongo of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Brazil great Pele was also at the stadium.
South Africa will host the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
IT WAS WRITTEN IN THE STARS
Zambia’s first African title came, poignantly, in Libreville and just a few kilometers from where almost the entire Zambian team was killed in a plane crash 19 years ago off the coast of the Gabon capital.
In a game of relentless drama and high emotion, the most significant moment was perhaps when Kalusha Bwalya, a member of the tragic team who was not on the ill-fated aircraft in 1993 and is now Zambia’s football federation president, lifted the Cup of Nations trophy up in one hand on the pitch, almost defiantly.
It was Zambia’s first game in Libreville since that the plane crash.
“There was a sign of destiny, a force within us. Maybe it was meant to be,” Zambia coach Herve Renard said. “I can’t explain it, honestly I can’t explain it. Something was written in the stars. It was not me.”
IVORY COAST STARS DON’T SHINE
Ivory Coast’s stars failed to shine on a gloomy night for the country’s “golden generation” as Zambia’s team spirit overcame the Ivorians’ individual talent in Sunday’s African Cup final.
Captain Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Kolo Toure all missed penalties, and Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou didn’t last 90 minutes after being substituted as Zambia snatched the trophy from tournament favorite Ivory Coast’s grip with an 8-7 win in a shootout after neither side scored in regulation or extra time.
Ivory Coast had appeared to have an iron grip on this year’s African Cup. It swept to the final with five straight wins without conceding a goal, but Drogba missed a 70th-minute spot-kick and fellow English Premier League players Gervinho and Kolo Toure then failed in the penalty shootout.
It was another difficult night for the so-called golden generation -- which has now lost two finals, a semifinal and a quarterfinal in the last four tournaments and threatens to be one of the best teams to go without the major prize to match its ability.
Despite all its top names, and imposing form up to the final, the country still hasn’t won the African title since its lone triumph in 1992.
“It’s difficult when you take part in a competition and you don’t concede any goals and score nine goals ... it is difficult,” coach Francois Zahoui said. “You feel the Cup is within your reach. I think we’ll take stock of this later on.”
Zahoui promised that any decisions on the future of the Ivorian lineup, with Drogba now 33 and Kolo Toure 30, would only be made later with “a calm mind,” but followers must be wondering if the group will ever end its drought — and if change is needed.
“Sometimes they are just bad results and you have to accept them,” Zahoui said, defending the efforts of his team.
“We know we could lose on penalties and the other team could lose. It’s Russian roulette, so it’s not really dishonourable.
“We have a lot of disappointment ... but we’re not going to be moving players (out) because of that.”
Drogba sent his regular-time penalty way over the crossbar, Kolo Toure had his saved in the shootout and Gervinho’s miss was the decisive error that sealed another Ivory Coast failure.
Kalou, meanwhile, was ineffective and left soon after halftime while midfield playmaker Yaya Toure had a subdued night after missing a good early chance and was taken off before extra time.
“We’ll have to see what has to be done. If we have to change some players we’ll see,” Zahoui said.
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- Additional reporting by Sapa-AFP, AP and Reuters