On an emotional night in Libreville, Zambia defeated tournament favourites Ivory Coast in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to claim an historic victory.
19 years after losing the majority of their squad in a plane crash, the footballing minnows stunned African football by beating much-vaunted Ivory Coast in the final of the 2012 African Cup of Nations.
The entertaining match ended goal-less after normal time, with Ivory Coast spurning a glorious opportunity to win the game when captain Didier Drogba miscued his late penalty, sending the ball high over the crossbar and into the stand. It was the lowest point of a tournament to forget for one of Africa’s most celebrated players.
For Zambia, their all action style had caused problems for Ivory Coast’s defence throughout the match, and they were unlucky not to score from a well worked corner in the first half.
Extra time saw both teams tighten up as the prospect of a second consecutive Nations Cup final penalty shoot-out loomed large. A dramatic night moved into pure theatre as the weary players lined up for the roulette of spot kicks. The shoot-out was a remarkable demonstration of sporting nerve, with the first seven players for both sides converting. However, after Ivorian midfielder Gervinho missed his kick, it was left to Zambia’s Sunzu to sweep home and send his ecstatic team-mates running across the pitch in celebration.
For Ivory Coast it was a familiar feeling of tournament heartache, as the sense of expectancy once again seemed to weigh heavy on their collective shoulders. That disappointment was felt particularly keenly by Drogba, whose penalty miss in normal time was to prove so costly. The Elephants’ 20+ year wait for Nations Cup victory continues.
For champions Zambia it was a moment to bask in the glory of success against all odds, and a time to remember the members of the squad of 1993 who died in such tragic circumstances.