Zambia to play Ivory Coast in African Cup final
Zambia reached the African Cup of Nations final for the first
time since 1994, upsetting Ghana 1-0 Wednesday night to advance to
the championship against tournament favorite Ivory Coast.
Emmanuel Mayuka scored in the 78th minute for Zambia, tied for
71st in the FIFA rankings.
Later at Libreville, Gabon, Ivory Coast defeated Mali 1-0 on a
45th-minute goal by Arsenal forward Gervinho.
Sunday’s final will be at Libreville, the site of Zambia’s worst
sporting disaster in 1993. A plane carrying Zambia’s national team
to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal crashed just minutes after
taking off, killing 25 players and officials.
”There’s something written that we have to go to play to honor
the memories of the Zambia national team that died in 1993,” said
Frenchman Herve Renard, Zambia’s coach. ”It was catastrophic for
the nation. The 12 million people of Zambia are waiting for us to
go back to Libreville. Immediately (after) we arrive, we will go to
the place. We just have to think of them and play for them and play
for Zambia because it’s a fantastic country.”
Ghana, which beat the United States en route to the 2010 World
Cup quarterfinals, could have gone ahead in the eighth minute, but
Asamoah Gyan’s penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
In the World Cup quarterfinals against Uruguay two years ago,
Gyan’s penalty kick in overtime went off the crossbar, and the
Black Stars were eliminated in a shootout.
Mayuka entered for the Copper Bullets at the start of the second
half. No. 26 Ghana finished a man short after Derek Boateng was
ejected in the 84th.
”This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in
the final,” Zambia captain Christopher Katongo said. ”We go to
the final without any pressure. We have to take this cup. This is
an opportunity. It doesn’t come every day.”
At Libreville, 18th-ranked Ivory Coast went ahead when Gervinho
capitalized on a defensive error to race half the length of the
field and shoot past goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite.
Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure both hit posts as Ivory Coast
dominated No. 69 Mali to reach the final without conceding a goal
at the tournament. Les Elephants are seeking their first title