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Zambia stuns Ivory Coast in penalties to capture African Cup of Nations

ZambiaWins (Getty Images)

Ivory Coast was the overwhelming favorite and had the big-name players. It's not like facing those factors had stopped Zambia from maintaining its inspiring quest to be crowned king of Africa before.

Almost 20 years after a plane crash in Libreville, Gabon, killed 25 Zambian national team players and officials, Zambia came full circle and paid an incredible tribute to its 1993 predecessors in that city, stunning Ivory Coast 8-7 in a dramatic penalty shootout after 120 scoreless minutes to capture the African Cup of Nations for the first time in its history.

Didier Drogba had a chance to win it in regulation for the favored Elephants, but he skied a 70th-minute penalty kick to keep the game scoreless, which it remained through extra time.

Each team converted on its first seven attempts during the penalty shootout before the twists started to unfold. Kolo Toure's saved shot opened the door for the Chipolopolo, but Rainford Kalaba could not capitalize and gave Ivory Coast new life. Arsenal striker Gervinho put his attempt high, though, and Stophira Sunzu came through with the title clincher. 

Zambia entered the tournament as the 16th-highest ranked team in Africa, according to the FIFA world rankings. The Copper Bullets' only slip-up during the tournament came in the group stage, when they tied Libya. Wins over Sudan, Ghana and Ivory Coast have them as perhaps the most surprising and inspiring undisputed champion in Africa's soccer history. 

Here are highlights from the match:


Not surprisingly, Zambia and Ivory Coast dominated the tournament's Best XI, with each accounting for four players:


Kennedy Mweene, Zambia


Jean-Jacques Gosso, Ivory Coast

John Mensah, Ghana

Stophila Sunzu, Zambia

Adama Tamboura, Mali


Gervinho, Ivory Coast

Seydou Keita, Mali

Emmanuel Mayuka, Zambia

Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast


Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast

Christopher Katongo, Zambia


What did you think of Zambia's run through the Cup of Nations?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. no, i’m the idiot. i thought zambia was zaire. so there’s a 3rd country with a “z” name. do they have a dictator like the other 2? This African Cup tournament could do with 2 outside invites to spice things up….like Japan or Korea and Argentina or Chile

  2. Awesome story! Zambia!!!

    Side note: That was a master class on penalty shots. Maybe one of those first 13 was an average hit, but the rest were incredible takes.

  3. I think next year’s African Nations Cup is going to the Confederations Cup. (It’s being played in consecutive years this time as they switch to odd-numbered years.

  4. Actually, they’re shifting the schedule for future ACN, so there’s another tournament in 2013. That winner will go to the Confed. Cup. Kind of sucks for Zambia…

  5. As a Mali fan, I am basking the schadenfreude of Gervinho missing to lose the final (he torched Mali’s right flank to score in the semifinal).

    Most of all, congrats to Zambia.

  6. ZAMBIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wish this could have been my grandfathers country of Guinea-Bissau instead. 🙁 But go Zambia!!!!!!!!!!!!! It would be cool if they beat Brazil in the tournament. 😀

  7. This shows how African soccer has improved over the years. Not so much at the top, where World Cup performances have not improved THAT much in recent tournaments, but in terms of depth.

    Can you imagine the 16th rank team in CONCACAF winning the Gold Cup?


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