After reaching the finals at the cost of Ghana, Zambia did the unthinkable yet again by defeating the Didier Drogba-led Ivory Coast 8-7 in the final, after a nerve-wrecking penalty shootout. However, it would have never come to that had the Chelsea striker converted the penalty in the 70th minute. He shot over, and the game went into extra-time, only to finish goal-less. Kolo Toure and Girvinho missed from the spot, while Stoppila Sunzu held his nerve to ensure that Zambia’s name is fondly recalled hereafter, whenever there’s a need to pull out the most unlikely Champions from the history books!
“So near yet to far!” – This was Ivory Coast’s golden generation. This was to be a golden period for the Elephants after all. Yet they failed at the final hurdle again. In the last four editions of the tournament, nothing but a triumph was expected from the mighty Ivorians. Didier Drogba may be the greatest player to emerge from Ivory Coast; he may be revered like a God back home, but this loss, and his miss, will be etched into his memory forever – especially after he’d failed from the spot in the 2006 edition’s shootout, losing to Egypt in the final. This was his chance to redeem himself. Sadly for Ivory Coast, he couldn’t.
19 years ago, Zambia had lost almost its entire team in a plane crash. 19 years later, the Chipolopolo, or the Copper-headed Bullets dedicated the triumph to the lost generation of 1993.
“They found the strength, I don’t know where. There is something written somewhere. It just felt right but it was not because of me, I don’t know where it came from. We were talking about it right from the time we started our preparations on 28 December. I told them if we got to the final we would play in Gabon where the plane crashed and our first match was against Senegal, where the team was headed to play. There was a special significance in that.” – Zambia coach Herve Renard
Player of the Tournament
Christopher Katongo (Zambia)
Despite some outstanding performances from players such as Ghana’s John Boye, Ivory Coast’s Sol Bamba, and a few others, Zambia’s inspirational captain, Chris Katongo, is clearly the man of the tournament. His three goals helped his team reach the final, and his calm, assuring presence on the pitch helped them to clinch the Cup.
Match of the Tournament
Gabon 3-2 Morocco
Goal of the Tournament
Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu (Ghana) v Guinea
Moment of the Tournament
Gabonian crowd support for Zambia
Ever since the plane crash, relations between the two countries had been far from cordial, with widespread hatred all around. Ergo, seeing the crowd, majority of them Gabonians, root for Zambia, after witnessing the spirit Copper Bullets showed on the pitch, fighting against all odds, against a star-studded Ivory Coast team made everybody realize the power of football once again. Football had done its part in building one bridge in Africa after all.
Team of the Tournament (official)
Kennedy Mweene; Jean-Jacques Gosso, Stophira Sunzu, John Mensah, Adama Tamboura; Emmanuel Mayuka, Yaya Touré, Gervinho, Seydou Keita; Christopher Katongo, Didier Drogba