African Cup of Nations Final: Zambia 0 – 0 Ivory Coast (Zambia win 8-7 on penalties)
An extremely attacking first half started with a goal on shot within 90 seconds, as Zambia’s Simkala went close from just inside the Ivory Coast penalty box. The ball fell to him after a wasted corner, and while he hit the ball hard and true towards goal, goalkeeper Barry got down well and kept a hold of the shot. Just a few minutes later, Ivory Coast almost sent Gervinho clear on goal but a fantastic challenge by the Chipolopolo left back Joseph Masonda stopped him in his tracks. However, Joseph was clearly hurt in the tackle and tried to play through the pain barrier.
It was not to be however, and the 34 year old had to come off the field after only 11 minutes of play. It was a hard scene to watch him hobble off, as he was clearly broken-hearted and openly sobbed into his jersey as he came off. In a beautiful and classy touch, almost all of the players around him offered their condolences to him as he was subbed.
Zambia’s star man Christopher Mayuka just missed the target with a looping header in the 13th minute, as the Ivory Coast defence were not paying attention to him or the cross that had been chipped in towards Mayuka. Had he not been jumping backwards, he probably would have scored.
The underdogs were the only team in the game during the first 20 minutes, and were controlling both the ball and the pace of the game and were showing up their more illustrious opponents. Les Elephants had their first shot on target from a Tiene freekick in the 21st minute, but it was a tame shot which the Zambian goalie collected with ease.
When Zambia had their own chance from a free kick just a few moments close, only a deflection from Tiene took the ball away from the goalmouth, which is just as well as it looked like it was going to creep into the corner of the net had it not been deflected. After that, the Ivory Coast started to take control of the game as the rain started to make the field slippery and stopped a true passing game being played.
Sol Bamba really should have done a lot better in the 25th minute when he had a free header from a corner kick. Standing close to the penalty spot, it looked harder to miss the target but his header went straight down into the ground and eventually bounced away to safety. Yaya Toure had their best chance of the half on the half hour mark, with a slick passing movement in and around the Zambian box. Toure eventually got control of the ball but scooped his shot wide of the post when he really should have put his team ahead.
Les Elephants were in total control at this point but couldn’t do much as the weather was taking it’s toll on their slick passing game. Indeed, the Chipolopolo actually went closest to scoring after Toure’s miss, as the ball went straight to Sinkala from a corner kick. Unfortunately, he slipped just as he was about to shoot and the ball skidded out of play. The remainder of the half petered out with a few half chances for both teams.
The second half started off quite slow, with Ivorian striker Gervinho having a half chance in the 48th minute, but he missed the target from a very tight angle. The start of the second half was nervy, and it was clear this was the case with sloppy play from both teams. It seemed they were feeling each other out again for the first 15 minutes before they attacked each other again.
And attack they did! Zambia went extremely close from a deflected cross in the 60th minute, the ball just looping over the bar. Had the ball lost any pace from the cross, it probably would have dropped into the goalmouth. Just two minutes later, Zambia went close again after a fantastic ball was leathered across the six yard box, and Gosso did really well to get the ball away from the incoming attacker to stop an easy tap-in.
In the 69th minute, we had a penalty kick to the Ivory Coast! Gervinho was pushed over in the box, and the referee had an easy decision in awarding a foul. Didier Drogba stepped up… and missed! He skied the ball, not dissimilar to Chris Waddle’s penalty in the 1990 World Cup. It would have been harsh on Zambia to go behind at this point, as frankly they had been the better team.
The game really opened up after the miss, and both teams seemed to take turns in attacking without doing too much in their respective final thirds. In fairness, both defences were playing extremely well and snuffing out most forward runs or attacks before they reached the penalty box.
The Ivory Coast almost killed the game off in the 87th minute as Max Gradel turned his marker inside out with a delicious feint inside the box, but his left footed shot was slightly scuffed at the point of contact and it just trundled past the post. It was then Zambia’s turn to almost win the match, when in injury time Mayuka was clear on goal! However he couldn’t properly get the ball under control and Bamba got back to clear the ball away for a corner kick.
The first half of extra time continued in the same vein as the end of the second half in normal time, as both teams continued to take turns going forward with the ball. In the 94th minute Zambia hit the post! Barry just managed to get his toe to Katongo’s shot from point blank range and pulled out an unbelievable save, knocking the ball onto the shot and out of play for a corner. Drogba had a shot from long range in the 98th minute but it dribbled through to the goalkeeper. With the last attack of the first half, Katonga was fouled from about 27 yards out, but the Zambian freekick went straight into the wall.
The players were visibly tired as the second half kicked off but Zambia’s Kalaba had a fantastic burst of pace to make room in the box in the 108th minute, but Sol Bamba again did well to block his cross across goal.Max Gradel had been looking dangerous since he came on for the Ivory Coast and the game seemed set for him to do something to win the match, but a dangerous cross over the goalie’s head in the 110th minute went to waste. The Zambians again went close from a curling thunderbolt from Kalaba, but it went well wide. After a shambles in the Zambian box, particularly by Mwenene, Les Elephants really should have scored but Gradel completely missed the ball.
The game looked like it was heading to penalties, which frankly was a damn shame. The players were knackered and the game was visibly heading towards a shoot-out. The game deserved an outright winner, but it went down to the lottery of a penalty shoot-out!
First penalty taker was Tiote for Ivory Coast, who scored to make it 1-0. Chris Katongo scored Zambia’s first to make it 1-1. Wilfried Bony and Mayuka both scored before Sol Bamba missed his first penalty, but the referee ordered a retake which he fired high into the back of the net. 3-2 Ivory Coast.
Chansa made it 3-3, Gradel made it 4-3 before Felix Katongo made it 4-4. Didier Drogba showed real bottle to make it 5-4. Mweene slotted home a calm penalty to make it 5-5. Sudden death now!
6-5 to the Ivory Coast before Sinkala scored a belter in the top corner to make it 6-6. 7-6…7-7…SAVE BY MWEENE! Kolo Toure missed with a poor penalty but in fairness it was a good save. Kalaba had the chance to win the match but skied it!
Gervinho missed his penalty to put Zambia back in the driving seat. Could the underdogs win???
GOAL! Zambia are the 2012 African Cup of Nations champions!
Ivory Coast v Zambia starting line-ups
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Siaka Tiene, Kolo Toure, Souleyman Bamba, Jean-Jacques Gosso Gosso; Didier Zokora, Cheik Tiote, Yaya Toure, Gervinho; Salomon Kalou, Didier Drogba.
Zambia: Kennedy Mweene; Joseph Musonda, Stoppila Sunzu, Hichani Himoonde, Davies Nkausu; Nathan Sinkala, Chisamba Lungu, Isaac Chansa, Rainford Kalaba; Chris Katongo, Emmanuel Mayuka
Referee: Badara Diatta (Senegal)