The inevitable African Cup of Nations championship matchup between the continent's two powerhouses has made way for a title game involving an underdog side that is a win away from capping off a Hollywood-worthy script.
Upstart Zambia shocked favored Ghana, 1-0, to advance to the tournament final and prevent the Black Stars from seeking redemption for their loss in the 2010 final. Instead, it's Zambia moving on to Sunday's title game in Libreville, Gabon — the site of a plane crash in which 25 Zambian players and officials were killed while en route to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal in 1993.
Asamoah Gyan, who scored the game-winning goal in extra time of Ghana's 2010 World Cup knockout round victory over the United States, had a first-half penalty kick saved by Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, and Emmanuel Mayuka scored the game-winner in the 78th minute to lift The Copper Bullets into the title game.
Zambia will meet Ivory Coast for the continental championship after the Elephants dispatched Mali in their semifinal matchup. Arsenal striker Gervinho accounted for the lone goal in the 1-0 victory, nutmegging a defender, carrying down the left side and poking a shot inside the far post to put Ivory Coast in position for its first tournament title since 1992.
Here are a few more stories from around the soccer world:
BARCELONA ADVANCES TO COPA DEL REY FINAL
Barcelona finds itself in familiar territory, reaching the final of a competition again after defeating Valencia 2-0 (3-1 on aggregate) in the Copa del Rey semifinals.
Cesc Fabregas and Xavi scored the goals for the world champions. Fabrgeas ran onto a long ball from Lionel Messi and chipped goalkeeper Diego Alves with the outside of his right foot to open the scoring in the 16th minute.
Fabregas played provider for Xavi in the 81st minute, crossing to the Spanish playmaker five minutes after Valencia went down to 10 men. Barcelona will meet Athletic Bilbao in the finals in search of its 14th trophy under manager Pep Guardiola.
CREW DROP FRIENDLY TO MALMO
Emilio Renteria found the back of the net in the opening minute, but the Columbus Crew dropped a preseason friendly to Swedish club Malmo FF, 2-1, in Bradenton, Fla., on Wednesday.
The teams played three 45-minute periods, and Columbus got off to a hot start when Renteria fired home a rebound off his own saved shot.
Former Seattle Sounders midfielder Erik Friberg started and assisted on the equalizer in the 24th minute for Malmo, which scored the winner five minutes later. Both Malmo goals came off corner kicks.
KEAT, GLEESON EARN NEW ZEALAND CALL-UPS
Los Angeles Galaxy second-year midfielder Dan Keat and Portland Timbers backup goalkeeper Jake Gleeson were called in by the New Zealand national team for its friendly with Jamaica at the end of the month.
Gleeson has played for the All Whites before, but for Keat, the call-up is a first. With Oceania World Cup qualifiers set to begin later this year, the friendly provides a chance for Keat, a 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft pick out of Dartmouth, to make an impression among an 18-man roster that has a number of New Zealand regulars.
"There are a couple of young players I need to take another look at it and this will be our only chance to run our eye over Dan Keat before the qualifiers,” New Zealand manager Ricki Herbert said in a federation release.
What do you make of Zambia's story? Do you think The Copper Bullets can knock off Ivory Coast and win the Cup of Nations? Think Barcelona will have a problem against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final? Do you see the Crew being an improved side this season? What do you make of Gleeson and Keat getting called up by New Zealand?
Share your thoughts below.