Soccerstoriesbook's Blog


OUT OF AFRICA, THE NEW YEAR’S FEEL-GOOD STORY

Zambia defeated Ivory Coast on penalty kicks, 8-7, following a scoreless draw in Libreville, Gabon, to capture the 2012 African Cup of Nations. 

The emotional final came down to two misses from the spot by Cote d’Ivoire.  In the tiebreaker, after 14 consecutive conversions, a Zambian save and Zambian miss, Arsenal’s Gervinho, a standout during the three-week tournament, misfired for the Elephants and Stophira Sunzu bured his try to give Zambia its first African crown.  Back in the second half, Ivory Coast had a chance to settle matters when Gervinho was brought down in the right side of the box, but Chelsea star Didier Drogba botched his PK attempt.

On the Zambian bench was the country’s soccer chief, Kalusha Bwalya, who had hired current coach Herve Renard.  In 1993, Bwalya, then a member of PSV Eindhoven, was due to fly from Holland to Africa to play for Zambia in a World Cup qualifier when all of his teammates were killed in a plane crash off the coast of  Libreville.   Three days before the 2012 final, Bwalya and Renard led the current Zambian squad to a Libreville beach, where they said prayers and scattered flowers.  “There was a special spirit with us,” said Renard, a Frenchman, later.  “It was written in the sky.”  

Zambia came into the tournament as 40-1 longshots while the heavily favored Ivorians, who won the 55-year-old competition back in 1992, went home having gone six games without a loss and without conceding a goal.  [February 12]

Comment:  Over the din of the silly turmoil in England concerning its captain and coach, over the din of the very real turmoil in Egypt (winners of the previous three African titles) that threatens that country’s ability to field a national team, 2012 has produced a feel-good story, and we haven’t even reached mid-February.  For more, scroll down to “Zambia’s Chance for a Bit of Closure,” January 21.

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