Ivory Coast stars don’t shine in African Cup final

AP, Monday 13 Feb 2012

Ivory Coast’s stars failed to shine on a gloomy night for the country’s “golden generation” as Zambia’s team spirit overcame the Ivorians’ individual talent in Sunday’s African Cup final

Gervinho, Didier Drogba
Ivory Coast's Gervinho, Didier Drogba

Captain Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Kolo Toure all missed penalties, and Yaya Toure and Salomon Kalou didn’t last 90 minutes after being substituted as Zambia snatched the trophy from tournament favorite Ivory Coast’s grip with an 8-7 win in a shootout after neither side scored in regulation or extra time.

Ivory Coast had appeared to have an iron grip on this year’s African Cup.

It swept to the final with five straight wins without conceding a goal, but Drogba missed a 70th-minute spot-kick and fellow English Premier League players Gervinho and Kolo Toure then failed in the penalty shootout.

It was another difficult night for the so-called golden generation, which has now lost two finals, a semifinal and a quarterfinal in the last four tournaments and threatens to be one of the best teams to go without the major prize to match its ability.

Despite all its top names, and imposing form up to the final, the country still hasn’t won the African title since its lone triumph in 1992.

“It’s difficult when you take part in a competition and you don’t concede any goals and score nine goals … it is difficult,” coach Francois Zahoui said. “You feel the Cup is within your reach. I think we’ll take stock of this later on.”

Zahoui promised that any decisions on the future of the Ivorian lineup, with Drogba now 33 and Kolo Toure 30, would only be made later with “a calm mind,”but followers must be wondering if the group will ever end its drought—and if change is needed.

“Sometimes they are just bad results and you have to accept them,” Zahoui said, defending the efforts of his team. “We know we could lose on penalties and the other team could lose. It’s Russian roulette, so it’s not really dishonorable.

“We have a lot of disappointment … but we’re not going to be moving players (out) because of that.”

Drogba sent his regular-time penalty way over the crossbar, Kolo Toure had his saved in the shootout and Gervinho’s miss was the decisive error that sealed another Ivory Coast failure.

Kalou, meanwhile, was ineffective and left soon after halftime while midfield playmaker Yaya Toure had a subdued night after missing a good early chance and was taken off before extra time.

“We’ll have to see what has to be done. If we have to change some players we’ll see,” Zahoui said.

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