After an exciting final match that ended 0-0 at the end of extra time, Zambia have bested the Ivory Coast 8-7 in the penalty shootout to lift their first ever African Cup of Nations trophy. The result came after both sides missed several chances to take the lead in the 90 minutes. Zambia pushed hard against he Ivorians right from the start, with a shot by Nathan Sinkala blocked in the 2nd minute and a narrow miss by Chisamba Lungu in the 13th. Ivory Coast, despite their star-studded lineup including Dider Drogba, Yaya Toure, and Gervinho, failed to get any real chances throughout the game. Drogba had a chance to give Ivory Coast the edge in the 70th minute when the Ivorians received a penalty kick. However, Drogba lobbed the ball over the bar and Ivory Coast failed to score for the rest of the match.
The blame for the Ivory Coast’s loss cannot be solely placed on Drogba though. The penalty shootout was a long one, with seven goals for both Ivory Coast and Zambia before one team began to falter. Kolo Toure’s shot for the IVory Coast was saved by Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene giving Zambia a chance to win it. The shot by Zambia’s Kalaba, however, sailed over the bar leaving the shots tied at seven. Gervinho was up next for the Ivory Coast, and hit it well to the right of the post, giving Zambia another chance. Stophira Sunzu made sure not to repeat Kalaba’s missed chance and sent the ball in, finally giving the match and the cup to Zambia.
The match culminated an excellent run by Zambia’s team in this year’s African Cup of Nations, after they defeated Sudan in the quarterfinals and Ghana in the semifinals. Zambia’s victory in Gabon also holds an emotional factor for the Zambian national team. In 1993, on a flight to Senegal for a World Cup qualifying match, the plane carrying the Zambian national football team crashed into the Atlantic Ocean 550 yards off the Gabonese coast. The plane was carrying 18 members of the Zambia squad, and all of them lost their lives in the accident. Ahead of the final match, the Zambia team visited a beach close to the crash site and laid flowers, paying their respects to those who died in the crash. The Zambia team said they were inspired by the remembrance of the 1993 disaster and that it spurred them to today’s victory, which was certainly well earned.