Côte d’Ivoire, Zambia set up final clash

Côte d’Ivoire, looking to lay to rest the ghosts of failures past, and Zambia have set up for a CAF Africa Cup of Nations final that will be a deeply emotional on Sunday.

The Zambians have kept their date with destiny, stunning Ghana 1-0 in today's first semi-final to bring Herve Renard's side to Libreville off whose coast 19 years ago the national side perished en route to a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier in Dakar.

Zambia will face a Côte d’Ivoire side led by Didier Drogba, after they defeated Mali 1-0 courtesy of a brilliant solo effort by Arsenal striker Gervinho in the day's second semi-final match.

After Zambia's stunning win over the Black Stars Renard said: "It was written in the stars that we had to return to Gabon in order to honour the memories of the national side wiped out in 1993."

"A team that is returning home and all of them die, is catastrophic for a country. Twelve million Zambians wanted us to go the whole way to Libreville. As soon as we arrive in Libreville, we will go to the spot where the plane crashed, not far from the stadium. It is imperative we play for them, for Zambia, because it is a fantastic country."

Zambia booked their ticket to the final courtesy of substitute Emmanuel Mayuka who scored 12 minutes from time to give the Copper Bullets a 1-0 victory over the four-time champions. The goal came against the run of play with Isaac Chansa setting up the 20-year-old striker, whose shot from outside the penalty area flew past goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey into the corner of the net.

Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic did not appear at the post-match press conference, but in his absence assistant Akwasi Appiah said: "We dominated almost all the match, they had only one or two opportunities, and scored with one of them.

I'm proud of the boys, they managed the game with calmness and patience, and a little stress. 
Francois Zahoui, Côte d’Ivoire coach

"Zambia is a huge footballing nation, they deserve to be in the final. Everyone is very sad, the majority of the players cried."

Gervinho seals final berth
Later, in the Gabonese capital, a moment of brilliance from Gervinho secured Côte d’Ivoire their fifth consecutive win in the 2012 competition and their place in Sunday's final. The Elephants' class and experience prevailed in an entertaining encounter set alight by Gervinho's 45th-minute goal.

Mali had struggled manfully to deny the Elephants of several chances, until Gervinho made his mark just before the break. The Arsenal striker stripped Mali defender Ousmane Berthe and after dribbling down the left flank, fired a right-footed past Soumaila Diakite into the far corner.

Winning coach Francois Zahoui cut a composed figure afterwards, saying: "We had to manage some difficult times but luckily we scored just before the end of the first half. I'm proud of the boys, they managed the game with calmness and patience, and a little stress.

"We weren't expecting such a tough game. I'm surprised by the work (Mali coach) Alain Giresse has done with his team, hats off to them."

Giresse, an experienced coaching hand in Africa, said that reality had bitten his inexperienced side. "We had some players missing, we tried to get along with what we had. We almost succeeded, we could see the difference of a team with many experienced players and a developing team like ours."

While the Ivorians, winners back in 1992, last made the final in 2006 when they came off second best to Egypt in Cairo, Zambia are appearing for the first time since 1994, when they were defeated by Nigeria in Tunisia.