The two teams were deadlocked at goalless after extra time and Stopila Sunzu converted his effort after Arsenal’s Gervino had missed his to give the Zambians a memorable victory, an honour to the entire team that perished off the coast of Gabon in air crash in April, 1993.
Prior to that the two teams were still deadlocked after Kolo Toure and Reinford Kalaba had missed for both teams to leave the penalty shootouts at seven-all before the dramatic miss by Gervino, one of the stars of the 2012 Nations Cup.
The victory gives the Copper Bullets their first ever Nations Cup title having failed in 1974 when they lost to the DRC in the final and in 1994 when they were beaten 2-1 by Nigeria’s Super Eagles.
More importantly for Zambia is the fact that their victory came after Didier Drogba had missed a penalty in the 72nd minute, the same way they won their semi final against Ghana’s Black Stars when Asamoah Gyan’s penalty was spectacularly saved by Kennedy Mweene.
What even makes Zambia’s success even sweeter is that they proved their mettle of true champions by beating all the top teams in the competition, starting off with a win over star studded Senegal in their group match, and then knocked out Ghana’s Black Stars before accounting for the Elephants in the final
Zambia’s success also gives southern Africa their first title in 16 years since South Africa’s win on home soil in 1996.
The whole of the southern Africa region was behind the Zambians that in Zimbabwe despite the late kick off, sports bars were full of football fans all rooting for the Copper Bullets who on their part did not disappoint as they hassled and hurried the Elephants who fielded international stars such as Yaya Toure of Manchester City, Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast, and Gervino among others.
In fact, Zambia could have won the match in regulation time had goalkeeper Boubacar Barry not been alert to parry Nathan Sinkala’s close range effort after good work by captain Chris Katongo in the second minute of the game.
Zambia coach Herve Revard recalled Emmanuel Mayuka after his sensational goal knocked out Ghana and the player was partnered with Chris Katongo upfront and the duo gave the Elephants all sorts of problems.
The more the game went on deadlock the better it became for Zambia as the Ivorians were getting more and more frustrated and when the dreaded penalty shootouts came it became evident that Zambia’s moment of glory had arrived, and came it did.
The irony is that Ivory Coast was excellent throughout the tournament: aside from the shoot-out, they did not concede a goal in six matches and become the first side to do so without winning the tournament. It is now 20 years since their only success in the competition when they won it in Senegal in 1992, coincidentally on penalty shootouts over Ghana.
A minute of silence was observed before kick-off in memory of the 74 people killed in the Port Said stadium disaster in Egypt, a few days after the start of the Nations Cup.