It was a story of minnows to super powers as hitherto unheralded Zambia defeated Cote d’Ivoire 8-7 in penalty shootout to win the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in a match that dragged into the late hours of Sunday night. It was the first African Cup triumph for Zambia.
The match ended goalless at full time and the teams failed to score through the extra time, missing chances in a game that showcased quality African football on a cold, wet night. The Ivorians were clearly favourites before the start of the game but after Africa’s biggest football star Didier Drogba missed a 70th-minute penalty, nobody could put a bet on the Ivorians any longer against a Zambian side that showed no respect to their opponents but instead displayed bravery and the determination to succeed. Drogba hit his spot kick way over the crossbar after Isaac Chansa and Nyambe Mulenga had combined to bring down Gervinho just inside the penalty area. Drogba looked up at the sky in frustration after his second penalty miss of the tournament.
Wayne Rooney tweeted after that miss, “Wow just seen Drogba’s penalty miss. Awful! He’s a great player though. I think he will score the winner.”
The Chelsea star never did score the winner as Rooney predicted.
It was an emotional win for the Zambians whose national players died off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in 1993. The only survivor from that team Kalusha Bwalya was in Equatorial Guinea/Gabon 2012 as the president of the Zambian Football Federation.
The competition wound down on Sunday as Gabon President Ali Bongo’s mother sang for fans and giant images of the tournament’s football-playing gorilla mascot were projected onto the pitch in a high-tech closing ceremony.
American singer Akon was also part of the show.
Patience Dabany, the country’s former first lady, performed the event’s theme tune to kick off the ceremony at the country’s new Stade de l’Amitie as performers ran across the field with the flags of the competing countries.
There were also fireworks at each end of the stadium and across the top of the two massive white arches. Brightly coloured holograms appeared behind the goals.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter earlier presented a pennant to both host countries’ presidents, Bongo of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Brazil great Pele was also at the stadium.
It’s estimated that Gabon—a central African country with a population of just 1.5 million—has spent between $600 million and $790 million on the 23-day football tournament it shared with oil-rich neighbour Equatorial Guinea.