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

since 1992.