Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Zambia and Ivory Coast to meet in African Cup of Nations Final

Nineteen years ago, 18 members of Zambia's Men's National Soccer Team were lost in a plane crash off the coast of Gabon en route to a FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Senegal. Today, Zambia stunned Ghana - the second ranked team in the African Football Confederation (AFC) - 1-0 to advance to the Finals of this year's African Cup of Nations.
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Zambia, ranked 71st in the world and 16th in the AFC, has never won the tournament and are advancing to the finals for just the third time in their history. The Copper Bullets nearly fell behind early in this one as they conceded a penalty kick less than ten minutes into the match, however Asamoah Gyan - the same guy who both knocked the U.S. out of the 2010 World Cup and then famously hit the crossbar on a penalty kick during the quarterfinals against Uruguay that had he made it would have sent Ghana through to the semifinals - had his kick blocked by Zambian keeper Kennedy Mweene. The game would remain scoreless until the 78th minute when Emmanuel Mayuka curled a ball into the side netting from the top of the box. Any hopes Ghana had of coming back would be dashed less than ten minutes later when Derek Boateng would get sent off with a second yellow card in the 84th minute forcing the Black Stars to play a man down. Ghana has now gone 30 years without winning the tournament having last brought home the title in 1982.

Zambia has 4 wins and a draw in 5 matches in the tournament and they've gone three straight matches without conceding a goal. They will now face off against Didier Drogba, Gervinho and the Ivory Coast on Sunday as they try to win the tournament for the first time. Ivory Coast defeated Mali in the other semifinal today 1-0, but despite being the top ranked team in the AFC they are searching for their first Cup of Nations title since 1992. The Ivory Coast is a perfect 5-0 in this year's tournament and has not yet allowed a goal outscoring their opponents 9-0. Mali and Ghana will play on Saturday in the third place game.

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