Gervinho missed the decisive penalty for Ivory Coast as Zambia incredibly won the Africa Cup of Nations
Evening. Everybody knows about the Munich Air Disaster, and most people will have heard of the Superga Disaster, the plane crash that wiped out the entire Torino squad – Il Grande Torino – in 1949. But until this Africa Cup of Nations, few people in this country will have been aware of the tragedy that struck the Zambian football team in 1993 when, after taking off from Libreville in Gabon, a military plane carrying most of the squad crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. All 30 people on board, including the 18 players, were killed. Expected to win the game and, indeed, qualify for the 1994 World Cup, an entire generation of players had been wiped out, just like that. Their best player, Kalusha Bwaly, who played for PSV Eindhoven and is now the president of the Football Association of Zambia, only survived because he was travelling to the game on his own.
In the end, they missed out on qualification for the World Cup by a single point and after searching high and wide for new players, they finished second in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1994 under the former Chelsea manager Ian Porterfield. There has been little for them to celebrate since then. Until now. After 18 years in the shadows, Zambia, against all the odds, have reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations, beating Ghana in the semi-final. The location of the final? Libreville, Gabon. The game, understandably, is being called a date with destiny, Zambia returning to the scene where tragedy struck 19 years ago. To complete the fairytale, they need to come up with one more miracle. Beating Ghana was stunning in its own right, but now they need to do all over again against the Ivory Coast, much like Andy Murray has to topple Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to win a grand slam.
Both sides, in their own way, have waited a long time for this. Given the context behind the game, the Ivory Coast probably could not have picked worse opponents, because it would appear almost callous to deny Zambia. Unfortunately football doesn't work like that and all the Ivory Coast can do is focus on the job in hand and not let themselves be affected by outside distractions. For years, they have had the potential to succeed at major tournaments, both at home and at World Cups. For years, they have underachieved, making them Africa's answer to pre-2008 Spain. Talk of golden generations is now banned in England, but this is the Ivory Coast's. Didier Drogba and company may not get another – or a better – chance to finally win something.
Ivory Coast: Barry; Gosso, K Toure, Bamba, Tiene; Zokora, Y Toure, Tiote; Gervinho, Drogba, Kalou.
Zambia: Mweene; Nkausu, Sunzu, Himoonde, Musonda; Chansa, Lungu, Sinkala, Kalab; C Katonga, Mayuka.
The teams stroll out, Ivory Coast in their orange kit, Zambia wearing green tracksuit tops. Kick-off isn't far away now.
Handshake time. Watch and learn, Luis.
Those were the anthems. Kolo Toure and Didier Zokora are tone deaf. That is all.
Before kick-off, a moment's silence to remember the violence in Port Said.
Peep! Ivory Coast get the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations final underway, kicking from right to left. It's not long before Zambia have it though, and Katonga belts down the right to win a corner off Bamba. "As an Irish man who grew up in Zambia, I have always just sort of assumed that I was destined to follow teams on the international stage who would count qualifications for tournaments and glorious quarter-final exits as their greatest achievements," says Declan Johnston. "Now there's the real possibility of cheering one of my countries to victory in a final for a big metal mug. The feeling of being an imposter is definitely unnerving. All of a sudden you can't hide behind self-depricating humour for explaining your team's miserable results. It's the hope that kills you really!"
2 min: What a well-worked corner that was! Instead of whipping it into the area, Kalaba rolls the ball almost along the goal-line to Katonga, who was standing by the near post. With his back to goal, he turned the ball back into the danger area and it came out to Sinkala, around 10 yards out. He hit his shot firmly, and it would have nestled in the bottom-left corner but for a very sharp save from Barry, who's not about to concede his first goal of the tournament that quickly.
4 min: Now it's the Ivory Coast's turn to attack after that early scare. Gervinho nearly breaks through into the area after a pass from Kalou, but Musonda is there to mop up, taking a knock in the process.
5 min: Jim Beglin really enjoyed that corner. He hasn't stopped talking about it for three minutes. To be fair, it was a very good corner - I haven't seen anything like it before.
6 min: Musonda might not be able to continue, having gone over on his ankle. Play is stopped again while he gets some treatment.
7 min: Zambia are down to 10 men for the time being, with Musonda off the pitch receiving treatment for that injury. It looks like he will continue though.
8 min: Zambia have been the better side so far, with the favourites yet to get into their stride.
11 min: A lull.
12 min: Musonda is in tears. This is terrible. He's going to have to come off after that early injury. As he walks off, he's consoled by Didier Drogba. This will almost certainly be his last major tournament. Nyambe Mulenga comes on in his place.
13 min: Remember how much hype there was about Didier Zokora before the 2006 World Cup?
14 min: Nkausu Delaps a long throw into the Ivory Coast area. No one can make anything of it at first, but the Ivory Coast defence, in keeping with their lacklustre start in general, goes to sleep, thinking the ball was going to bounce behind for a goal-kick. It didn't though and the alert Lungu got to the ball and dinked it back across goal from the right. Mayuka couldn't quite get above his header though, looping it on to the top of the net. A bit lower and Barry might well have been beaten. Zambia have started this final very well.
16 min: Drogba looks to inject some life into the Ivory Coast with a powerful run through the middle. He's brought down 35 yards from goal by Sinkala, but his free-kick is easily blocked by the wall. "There was a time when flicks on at the near post were described as "undefendable" but then teams just stopped doing it," says Gary Naylor. "That was a smart variation by Zambia - maybe more sides should hit the near post and get the ball moved on from there."
18 min: The atmophere inside the stadium is strangely muted.
19 min: Drogba's down again, this time after Himoonde takes him out from behind. This one's closer than the previous free-kick, though it's a bit wider.
20 min: Tiene gets the free-kick over the wall, but it's straight at Mweene. That might be the Zambia goalkeeper's first touch.
22 min: Salomon Kalou goes on a little adventure down the left and runs the ball out of play for a goal-kick. That's what's made him such a favourite at Stamford Bridge.
23 min: Now Zambia win a free-kick within shooting distance. Kalaba takes it, and it deflects off Tiote, spinning wide of the right post. Kalaba goes across to take the corner, but over-hits it, allowing the Ivory Coast to break and win one of their own through Kalou.
24 min: Drogba dashes towards the near post - heart in Zambian mouths for a moment - but his flick is deflected wide for another corner. Zambia claim the last contact was by Drogba, but the referee's having none of it.
25 min: The first real scare for Zambia, as Bamba is allowed a free header from Kalou's corner. He can't make good enough contact with the ball though, and though he nods it down into the six-yard box, leading to a spot of panic in the Zambia defence, the ball is eventually hacked clear. Up the other end, Katonga has a pop from distance, but it's tame and Barry holds comfortably.
27 min: Yaya Toure tries a shot from long range. The less said about it, the better. "Doesn't this game seem really enjoyable after this weekend's premiership 'action'?" says Mark Griffiths. "Zambian plane crash also puts handshakes into perspective."
28 min:Mayuka does well to hold the ball up and lay it off to Chansa, whose launches his shot into nearby Equatorial Guinea.
29 min: There's not a great deal of creativity in the Ivory Coast side. They have some powerful, tricky players, but Zambia look comfortable sitting back and asking them to open them up.
30 min: The commentator's curse nearly strikes. This time, Zambia are led on a song and dance by a lovely flowing move from the Ivory Coast. 'Jeremy' Gosso breaks down the right and knocks a low cross into the area, the ball coming to Drogba. He can't turn to shoot, but holds off a clutch of defenders, spins and backheels the ball to Yaya Toure, who's got a clear sight of goal. Normally so clinical in these positions, somehow he places his shot from 10 yards out inches past the left post.
34 min: Zambia are a huge threat at set-pieces, but they're not offering too much in open play.
37 min: From the right flank, Drogba plays a reverse-pass through to Gervinho, who's dashed across from left to right. Under pressure from Sunzu though, his shot is weak and rolls meekly to Mweene.
38 min: Zambia are so dangerous from set-pieces. From the right, Kalaba swings a corner to the other side of the area, where a Zambia player - I'm not sure who, so sue me* - is left all alone, only to slip and completely miss his kick.
*Please don't sue me.
39 min: Mweene nearly does a Barthez, taking the ball outside of the area when he had it in his hands. Drogba briefly appealed, but it was too tight to tell properly. It wouldn't have been a red card though.
43 min: Now Gosso's injured. Another stoppage. The Zambia player who had the chance from that corner a moment ago was Sinkala by the way.
45 min: There will be two minutes of stoppage time.
45 min+1: "I have paid exactly zero attention to this tournament," says Matt Dony. "Ivory Coast's keeper is called Barry? Really? Barry???" Barry. Apparently his nickname is Glendenning.
Peep! Peep! The half time whistle blows and Zambia are more than holding their own.
Half time: Ivory Coast 0-0 Zambia
46 min: Off we go again, Zambia getting the second half underway. And there's a familiar sight straight away, Drogba down holding his head after a clash with Mulenga.
47 min: Not that Drogba's faking it. He looks a bit dazed after that blow to the head and is off receiving treatment.
48 min: Drogba walks gingerly back on.
50 min: Gervinho speeds past Mulenga and drills the ball into the near post, but Drogba can't make anything of it with Sunzu sticking close to him again.
52 min: At what point is it acceptable to point out that this game isn't very good?
53 min: "I'm only here for the final, like the MBM Harry Kewell," parps Matt Dony. Does that mean you've pulled your hamstring?
55 min: Kalou curves a free-kick into the area from deep, but Drogba gets too much on his header when it should have been a delicate glance, and the ball flies well over the top.
58 min: This is like watching Paraguay v Paraguay.
60 min: Chansa's shot is deflected and despite the best efforts of Barry, it goes behind for a corner. Kalaba tries the short-corner routine again, and when it's returned to him, he stabs a cross into the area with the outside of his right boot. The ball spurts up off an Ivorian head and loops just over the far post. The next corner leads to nothing.
62 min: A shock is on the cards here. Mayuka breaks clear down the right and drives the ball across goal, forcing Gosso to turn his cross behind with a Zambian attacker lurking nearby.
63 min: Cheik Tiote is booked for blocking off Mulenga. Max Gradel comes on for the anonymous Kalou. "Or Italy v Italy," says Shane O'Mahony. "Or Italy v Paraguay for that matter."
66 min: Kabala curls a free-kick way over the bar, shortly after Bamba is booked for dissent.
68 min: Gradel's first contribution is a tricky run down the left, but having got to the byline, the superb Sunzu is in the way of his cutback towards Drogba. "I agree that Barry is a fine name for a keeper (presumably he's even more defensive than his namesake Gareth) but surely the coolest-named fellow in the respective teams is "Sunzu"!" says Ryan Dunne. "Is he displaying much "Art of War" in his defensive style? Like Matt Dony, I'm a final-only glory hunter. Although the African cup of nations *strips* are utterly superb, especially the subtle animal designs. I wish Scotland had some lions, elephants, tigers and bears or the like on their strips. Might help strike fear into opposing defenses. And surely Indonesia would be a lot higher than #143 in those FIFA rankings if their strips featured the mighty Komodo Dragon?"
69 min: PENALTY TO IVORY COAST! Gervinho bustles into the area and is sandwiched by Chansa and Mulenga, the former giving a little shove into the back of the Ivory Coast winger. Soft, perhaps, but a foolish challenge. Mulenga is booked. Mweene saved a penalty from Asamoah Gyan in the semi-final.
70 min: DIDIER DROGBA MISSES! It's a repeat of Jaap Stam's penalty at Euro 2000, as he disregards everything he ever read in a coaching manual, leans back and blazes the ball miles over the bar! What a dreadful penalty. He looks accusingly at the spot, but there was no excuse for that.
72 min: Oh Didier.
73 min: A comment from Rob Smyth on the state of this game.
74 min: Well that's embarrassing. The substitute has been substituted, Mulenga off for Felix Katongo. That's presumably to protect him after his booking.
75 min: Konan Ya replaces Didier Zokora. "I don't get the Paraguay v Italy joke," says Andrew Seymour. "Please explain?" They're both boring.
78 min: "Barry the keeper might be even more defensive than Barry the tortoise-paced midfield mediocrity, but at least he spends less time passing sideways," says the obsessed Matt Dony.
79 min: How to sum up this game in three short words. Warning: contains adult language.
80 min: Mayuka looks like a very good player, but he's been unable to come up with a telling pass in dangerous positions.
83 min: Lungu sends a swerving drive a few yards wide of the right post. Barry always had it covered, but gave it a sympathy dive anyway, just for something to do. It's a shame Camp Krusty's Mr Black isn't commentating on this game.
84 min: "As a Chelsea fan, I've often wondered what might have happened in Moscow had Drogba been on the pitch to take a high pressure penalty in a big final, instead of John Terry," says Iain Chambers. "That won't be bothering me any more."
87 min: Yaya Toure is replaced by Wilfried Bony. Toure had a very poor game by his standards. The Ivorians have been collectively bad though; maybe the pressure has got to them.
88 min: That should have been the winner. Bony knocks a high ball down to Gradel in the area. He brilliantly feints to shoot, throwing the Zambian defence off course, but having worked the opening, he drags his left-footed shot agonisingly past the right post.
89 min: "Does anyone with knowledge of the stadium location know whether Drogba's penalty would have landed in the Congo or the Gulf of Guinea?" honks Simon Ward in London. I think the ball's just landed in your front room, Simon.
90 min: There will be four minutes of stoppage time. Score a goal for me.
90 min+2: An wonderful last-ditch tackle from Kolo Toure stops Mayuka winning it for Zambia. It was a great move from Zambia, Chansa cleverly scooping the ball over the top - think Paul Scholes against Milan in 2007 - for Mayuka. The ball just wouldn't sit nicely for him though, allowing Toure to get back and concede a corner at the vital moment.
90 min+4: Mweene dives bravely at the feet of Gervinho after a corner led to a scramble in the Zambia area. Gervinho's come off worse out of that one.
Peep! Peep! No one did score a goal for me. We're going to extra time. "This game could have used Emmanuel Eboue," says Figen Altinis.
Full time: Ivory Coast 0-0 Zambia.
ET 1 min: Right, up your game lads.
ET 2 min: Put this on a loop.
ET 3 min: Mweene is out smartly to smother the ball at Drogba's feet as he threatened to overpower Sunzu. It must be said that Sunzy has had a fine game at the back for Zambia.
ET 5 min: Zambia hit the post! Felix Katongo nutmegs Tiene on the right and hares into the area, before finding Captain Katongo six yards out. He clips the ball towards the bottom-right corner, but with Barry going the wrong way, the goalkeeper somehow sticks out a foot and brushes the shot with his studs, diverting it on to the post. What a save. And some really good Katongo-on-Katongo action there.
ET 8 min: Bony slips a pass through to Drogba, but he's outmuscled by Himoonde and goes to ground in the area, drawing whistles from the Zambia fans.
ET 10 min: Am I the only person who found Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy interminably dull? Give me some explosions.
ET 11 min: "This game would be much better if it was on Sky," says Simon McMahon. "The Barclays African Cup of Nations surely couldn't fail to disappoint?"
ET 12 min: Herve Renard is a preposterously cool man.
ET 14 min: A loose header falls to Gervinho on the left of the area. He cuts inside, but Sunzu's in the way of his shot. He's always in the way. We'll gloss over the fact it was his header that have Gervinho the chance in the first place.
ET 15min+1: Chansa plops a free-kick straight into the Ivory Coast wall.
Half time in extra time: Ivory Coast 0-0 Zambia.
ET 16 min: Off we go again. We're drifting towards penalties now, which is good news for Didier Drogba. "We think alike about Herve," says Mark Judd. "I sent this message to my girlfriend at 9.20: 'he's a cool looking dude on the touch line - jeans and white shirt, no tie, extra button undone'." Is she going to let you dress like that now?
ET 17 min: Gradel crosses. There's Sunzu again. "It wasn't that dull, it just let you know they knew 'something'... then they put in a bit of tension music... then they decided to not tell you," says Paul Neilan. "You weren't on a need-to-know-basis, Steinberg, if that is your real name etc, and then you were left alone, out in the cold. It really stood by its spy principles. Admirable. Nay, a silent triumph. Although, you and I could do that with any film if we couldn't be arsed finishing it."
ET 18 min: Kalaba brings a high ball down beautifully and drives into the area, but Bamba blocks his cross-shot behind. The corner is hooked clear by Drogba. "Tinker Tailor rubbish, all moody non-dialogue and twisty plot that you desperately follow and then the denouement is cos the baddies are idiots and say something stupid - what's the point of the clever twisty plot when the goodies don't have to unravel it?" blasts Clive Darwell.
ET 21 min: Tiote pummels a shot goalwards. It's deflected through to Gervinho, but he's offside. "I already dress like Herve but I can't seem to look anywhere near as cool," says Mark Judd. "Must be something French."
ET 22 min: "It was boring," says Harry Stopes. "All the possible moles were interchangeably posh, dull and closeted to such an extent that I forget which one was the grass."
ET 23 min: Is Herve Renard cool? "Not if you were unfortunate enough to watch Herve Renard's attempts to manage an admittedly terrible Cambridge United team in the 2004/5 season when he could only grunt his two English words at the shocking excuse of a team he had put out failed yet again to string two passes together and slumped out if the league, still to return," says Ben Yelton. Yeah, but look at his hair.
ET 24 min: I think he's cool. "Just like Joachim Low, even down to the shirt," says Stephen Gibb. "I'd imagine it must take significant sacrifice in terms of practice in front of the mirror. He was also yelling at someone on his team, accusing them of being afraid of the opposition, so clearly an expert on management of team ego development as well as his own."
ET 25 min: Kalaba plays a one-two and then whacks a storming shot past the left post. Barry was scrambling across there.
ET 26 min: "Tinker etc etc was England vs Algeria dull," says Iain Chambers. If Oldman gets an Oscar for that, I might submit my three hour epic, '46 year old man watches the TV' for next year's awards." I think I've seen a variation that before.
ET 27 min: Mweene comes rushing off his line to flap at a Drogba flick-on, with Gervinho trying to head it past him. Let's face it, there's only one winner there: comedy. The ball drops to Gradel, but he swipes at it and misses, allowing Himoonde to clear. Mweene is down, but he should be up again soon.
ET 29 min: Mweene is up again.
Full time in extra time: Ivory Coast 0-0 Zambia. It's penalties. Didier Drogba must be thrilled.
My contention is that when a game has been that boring, the players have a duty to let it go to penalties.
Ivory Coast lost the 2006 final to Egypt on penalties. What does that tell us? That Ivory Coast lost the 2006 final to Egypt on penalties.
On the touchline, the Zambian players are singing.
Ivory Coast are going to go first. Cheik Tiote is first up.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 1-0 Zambia: A fine penalty from Tiote, placed into the right corner, Mweene going the wrong way.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 1-1 Zambia*: Ivory Coast's captain, Didier Drogba, missed a penalty in normal time, but Zambia's captain, Christian Katongo makes no mistake. He strolls up, halts and strokes it into the bottom-right corner. Barry didn't move.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 2-1 Zambia: That was a good penalty from Bony, clipped high into the top-left corner.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 2-2 Zambia*: Zambia's players are still singing. And with good reason, as Mayuka drills it high into the left corner. Barry went the right way, but he had no chance.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 3-2 Zambia: Bamba misses! But he's going to get a second chance, as the linesman flags and the referee rules that Mweene comes off his line to save it. The second penalty is emphatic, smashed into the roof of the net.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 3-3 Zambia*: Chansa says a prayer and then sends Barry the wrong way again, the ball going into the left corner.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 4-3 Zambia: Gradel scores, a near-identical penalty to Chansa's.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 4-4 Zambia*: These penalties are brilliant. Felix Katongo clips it over Barry's dive and into the left corner. It must be noted that the goalkeeper was off his line there...
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 5-4 Zambia: That took some nerve from Drogba after his miss in normal time. It's a high penalty again, but this time it stays underneath the bar. Nicely done. Now Zambia must score. And it's going to be Mweene to take it!
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 5-5 Zambia*: How do you like that? Mweene, the Zambian goalkeeper steps up, and sends Barry the wrong way! It's sudden death now.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 6-5 Zambia: What a penalty, sidefooted high into the left corner with his left foot by Tiene.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 6-6 Zambia*: Wow. Sinkala steps up and roofs it! That's the best penalty yet. Who does he think he is, Zidane?
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 7-6 Zambia: Konan Ya thumps it home.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 7-7 Zambia*: Lungu scores. This is never going to end.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 7-7 Zambia: Kolo Toure takes a massive run-up and Mweene saves his tame penalty, easily going down to his left and pushing it away! Score now and Zambia win the Africa Cup of Nations!
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast 7-7 Zambia*: Incredible! Kalaba lifts his penalty over the bar! Ivory Coast escape! Zambian prayers aren't answered.
PENALTIES: Ivory Coast* 7-7 Zambia: As Gervinho stepped up, I said to anyone who cared to listen that he'd miss. No proof of it on here, but he's come up with an awful penalty, sidefooted high and wide. It wasn't even close. Zambia have another chance to win it.
ZAMBIA WIN 8-7 ON PENALTIES: It had to be Sunzu! He slams it down the middle, Barry dives and Zambia have won the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations! You could not script this.
Sunzu wheels off in celebration, chased by the rest of the Zambian team! Eventually, there's a bundle, while devastated Ivory Coast players collapse in tears. Herve Renard carries the injured Musonda, who was in tears at the start of the game after having to go off, on to the pitch to be with his team-mates. What a guy. In the city where 30 Zambians lost their lives in 1993, they have returned for their country's finest sporting hour. Date with destiny? A home run on the first date.
What a story. Now for the trophy. Once again, the Ivory Coast are the nearly men. "But how can a team with no representatives from The Most Exciting League in the Universe win the Cup of Nations?" says Lou Roper. "Preposterous."
You have to hand it to ITV for cutting to an ad break shortly after the winning penalty. A classy move.
On Eurosport, they're showing Ivory Coast receiving their medals. On ITV, they're showing adverts. They shouldn't be allowed near live football. "At least ads after the winning penalty beats ads in place of a goal during play," says Matt Dony.
Ivory Coast didn't concede a single goal in the entire tournament. Yup, that'll be a consolation for them later on tonight.
Zambia's players have been singing since the start of the penalty shoot-out. What energy!
Christopher Katongo kisses the trophy and then lifts it into the air. This is the feel-good story of 2012, something to restore your faith in football after recent events over here.