[ 2012-02-12 ]
I. Coast, Zambia set for Africa Cup of Nations final
LIBREVILLE (AFP) - The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations
has enjoyed more than its fair share of upsets but
Ivory Coast are praying Sunday's final with Zambia
will go according to the formbook.
The Elephants will start as warm favourites as
they seek to banish once and for all the tag of
'chokers' applied to Dider Drogba and company
after disappointing campaigns in 2008 and 2010.
Zambia, who have reached the final on a wave of
emotion as they honoured their comrades who
perished in the 1993 plane crash off the
Libreville coast, have a tough task ahead of
Not only are they a yawning 63 rungs below their
rivals in FIFA's world rankings but Herve Renard's
men will also be trying to become the first team
to score a goal against Ivory Coast since the
start of battle three weeks ago.
Ivory Coast boast an enviable record in Equatorial
Guinea/Gabon, not only have they won all their
five matches but they have also avoided conceding
a single goal, to nine scored.
Zambia, who were runners-up the year after the
plane tragedy, have scored nine, but conceded
three, and won four of their games and drawn one.
A compelling contest is in prospect as the
Ivorians target a second title after their lone
success 20 years ago, while the Copper Bullets are
targeting their first.
Under coach Francois Zahoui the Elephants have
forgone the flashy brilliance of years gone by and
adopted a more pragmatic, 'results are what count'
And Zahoui's approach has worked a treat, as his
men avoided the same fate as the likes of
competition co-favourites Ghana, knocked out by
Zambia in Wednesday's semi-final, and the trio of
shock first round casualties Senegal, Tunisia and
An impregnable defence coupled with forwards who
can strike at will are the cornerstones of Ivory
Coast's march to Sunday's final, says Salomon
The Chelsea star said: "Our aim has been to not
let in any goals.
"And with the strikers we've got, at any moment we
can make the difference."
That was plain for all to see on Wednesday when
Arsenal star Gervinho raced from the halfway line
to score a superb solo goal to down valiant Mali.
"Our goals can come from anywhere," added Kalou.
"From Yaya (Toure), Gervais (Gervinho), Didier
"We can score at any moment and that's an
advantage that we have on lots of other teams at
this Nations Cup."
Zahoui commented: "Happily our defence has been
very mature and solid since the beginning of the
"After our past failures we knew that as long as
we don't concede any goals we can make the
difference up front. Our ambitions remain in
But despite the Ivorians' star-studded squad and
experience, Zahoui is wary of Zambia.
"They are a young, very buoyant side who play good
football. They attack and cause problems for any
team they come across."
On Thursday, Zambia arrived in Libreville and made
their way to the nearest mainland spot to the site
of the 1993 plane crash 500 metres off the
Gabonese coast where the national team was wiped
Emotion is a strong motivating factor, and Zambia
have plenty of credit in that deparmtent as they
look to honour their fallen comrades.
Only former African Footballer of the Year Kalusha
Bwalya avoided one of the great African football
tragedies because he was based in the Netherlands
with PSV Eindhoven and travelled directly to Dakar
Bwalya, now president of the Zambian Football
Federation, was among the group paying an
emotional homage to the dead on Thursday.
"It is no coincedence that we are here (in
Libreville) today, we have worked hard as a team.
"I pray that their souls may forever rest in peace
and that God will give us the strength and the
courage to fulfil our dreams.... and theirs."
Source - AFP
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