Holders Zambia reach AFCON finals after shootout
Defending champions Zambia qualified for the 2013 Orange Africa Cup of Nations Saturday after winning a marathon penalty shootout in Uganda. It took 20 spot kicks at the near-full Nelson Mandela stadium outside Kampala before the visitors emerged 9-8 winners having lost the second leg 1-0 with recalled Geoffrey Massa scoring midway through the opening half.
The final round qualifier finished 1-1 on aggregate, necessitating the shootout in which Zambia converted nine consecutive kicks after captain Christopher Katongo failed to score from the first penalty. Zambia are no strangers to shootouts, defeating fancied Ivory Coast 8-7 on penalties in Libreville last February after 120 goalless minutes to win the trophy for the first time.
Herve Renard, the French coach who guided Zambia to success against the odds, wore the same white shirt and jeans in each match of the 2012 tournament, and in Kampala. Defeat meant more heartbreak for Uganda, seeking a place at the premier African football tournament for the first time since losing the 1978 final against hosts Ghana.
Ghana became the first team to qualify for the 2013 finals with an early Afriyie Acquah goal giving them a 1-0 win over Malawi in Lilongwe having taken a two-goal advantage to Civo Stadium. Acquah, from Serie A oufit Parma, was not even chosen for the original squad, but got a late call-up when another Italy-based midfielder, Emmanuel Agyemang Badu, withdrew injured. Malawi never stopped trying before a crowd that included state president Joyce Banda and troubled goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey occasionally, but more clinical finishing would have given the Black Stars a bigger victory.
Mali shrugged off the absence through injury of experienced midfielders Seydou Keita and Mahamadou Diarra to triumph 4-1 in Botswana after leading by a solitary goal at half-time.France-based Cheick Diabate scored the opening goal and there were three more for the visiting Eagles before Botswana grabbed a late consolation, leaving Mali 7-1 overall winners.
POST –MATCH REACTION: Uganda vs Zambia
Bobby Williamson: - Uganda coach
“I think my boys played well. We won the game and that’s what we set out to do but am puzzled why in major competition we still cannot go over the final hurdle. I thought playing extra time would be the ideal way to go and not straight into penalties. That’s wrong. Penalties are the last thing anybody wants. I am not bitter about the team’s performances over two legs. The goal we conceded in the first leg should not have been allowed.”
Herve Renard: - Zambia coach
“Uganda is a strong side but I have always said qualification was our most important goal . We are going to South Africa and unfortunately Uganda miss out again . My players were very strong even after we missed the first penalty. They sang and danced in the middle of the pitch. We are used to pressure. This will be my third Africa Nations Cup with Zambia. I am sure with the players I have we can achieve more.”
HOSTS COUNTRIES OF NEXT CAF COMPETITIONSOrange CAN 2012
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