Zambian glory after Drogba penalty miss

The Africa Cup of Nations had a romantic and dramatic finale when Zambia claimed the trophy on penalties. It was a fairytale triumph for a nation that has fought back heroically from one of football’s most tragic events.

For Zambia, it was a final that was always going to be an emotional occasion. In 1993 the plane carrying 18 players from the national team had crashed into the Atlantic after taking off from Libreville in Gabon, killing everybody on board.

Just 19 years later Zambia returned to the same city and gave the most impressive performance of their nation’s football history, matching the favourites, Ivory Coast, in every part of the pitch, while their coach, Herve Renard, urged on his players for the whole two hours.

Ivory Coast had a great chance to settle the game in the second-half when Arsenal striker Gervinho was pushed in the penalty area. Didier Drogba sent the penalty high over the bar, and Zambia breathed again. After a goalless 90 minutes and extra-time, the final was decided on penalties.

"This is our time," Renard told his players before the shootout. He was proved right, but endured a nerve-wracking marathon before Zambia prevailed. His players sang as their team-mates stepped up to the spot. For Ivory Coast, two more Premier League stars, Gervinho and Kolo Toure, missed penalties, although Drogba scored in the shootout.

Several of the Zambian players, not least the admirable defender Sunzu, who scored the decisive penalty, will have caught the eye of scouts, and can soon expect to attract offers from European clubs.

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