It was a fairytale triumph for Zambia, who returned to Gabon 19 years after the plane crash which claimed the lives of the team's coach and 18 members of their squad. The Copper Bullets finally won Africa's top football prize after losing in two previous finals, while the favored Elephants of Ivory Coast suffered a shootout defeat again after a similar heartbreak against Egypt in 2006 — when Didier Drogba, the team captain, also missed a penalty.
Both teams were successful with their first seven penalties of the shootout, including Drogba, until Manchester City defender Kolo Toure saw his effort saved by Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. Rainford Kalaba then missed the chance to clinch the game for Zambia when he shot over. With the tension almost unbearable, Arsenal forward Gervinho blazed his penalty wide, and this time Zambia's Stoppila Sunzu made no mistake to give his side an emotional victory.
Zambia's French coach Herve Renard was overjoyed. "This represents something enormous, something which appeared unrealizable before the competition began," he told AFP.
"I know we're not the best but we have a strength and force that animated our team."
Zambia, the runner-up in 1974 and 1994, becomes the first southern African country to win the biennial continental championship since South Africa in 1996.