Zambia weren’t the best team before the tournament, and they certainly didn’t play the best football during the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. During the final it was more of the same, but a cool head, good defending and a little bit of lady luck helped a team, still dipped in tragedy of that 1993 plane crash, win its first continental title.
Didier Drogba? Loser is a harsh word, but for a living legend in Africa, another penalty miss, and another failure to lead Ivory Coast’s “golden” generation to the promised land, which is winning the African title, is a bit too much on a very impressive resume. There’s no excuses for Drogba who has been the spearhead of the most talented African team, maybe of all time, for the past six years.
The tournament never lives up to the hype in terms of quality. Too many weak teams, empty stadiums and a slow pace to most of the matches do hurt the viewing experience for an outsider. But there’s passion that you don’t always see in bigger tournaments. The fans and the goal celebrations are always a joy to behold.
And sometimes, it’s the stories, like Zambia’s, a side with only one player playing in Europe (Emmanuel Mayuka), with the memory of the legendary 1993 team always hounding, always alive, who finally put a stamp as the fourteenth nation to win the title.
It can’t be any crueler than penalty kicks, but Zambia enjoyed from them more than once. Gyan was again the tragic figure for Ghana, missing a penalty kick in the Semi Final. Didier Drogba for the Ivory Coast in the final, although he did nail his attempt in the penalty shootout, that for a moment, looked like it would go on forever, before the white spot turned into complete mush and the shots started firing high.
Is this the birth of a new African power? Hard to believe. This looks more like the case of Greece in the 2004 Euro. Consistency without players at the top levels in Europe or even African clubs is hard to achieve, and Zambian players may hopefully start getting out more after a few impressive displays in Equatorial Guinea.
Who knows – the next tournament is only a year away, with South Africa hosting in 2013. The ACN is anything but easy to predict, and another Zambia might be lurking around the corner.