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Zambia v Ivory Coast

TEAM NEWS

Both coaches are in the ideal scenario of contesting their most important game with fit squads and no suspensions.

Emmanuel Mayuka may expect to start after coming off the bench to grab the semi-final match-winner against Ghana.

He is one of three players who need one goal to be able to finish top scorer, alongside Zambia team-mate Chris Katongo and Ivorian Didier Drogba.

Elephants coach Francois Zahoui is expected to keep the same side that started in Wednesday’s defeat of Mali.

MATCH PREVIEW

Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations final pits pre-tournament favourites Ivory Coast against a Zambian side of whom little was expected in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

The Zambians will be contesting their third finals, after finishing as runners-up in 1974 and 1994.

Their last appearance in a Nations Cup final came just a year after 18 Chipolopolo players died in a plane crash minutes after taking off from the Gabonese capital Libreville.

Returning to this year’s final in Gabon, after playing their previous five games in Equatorial Guinea, has served as an inspiration for a delegation headed up by Zambian FA president Kalusha Bwalya, who missed the 1993 flight as he was based in Europe.

As a southern African side looks to win the tournament for the first time since South Africa in 1996, emotions will be running high for all Zambians – for whom the air disaster is an indelible part of the country’s history.

“With our determination, we are scared of nobody but we have lots of respect for Ivory Coast,” says Zambia’s French coach Herve Renard, who likes to wear a ‘lucky white shirt’ during matches.

“We know the quality of the players and what they are capable of. We are in front of a mountain but we’ve got so much determination that we are not afraid of reaching the summit.”

Ivory Coast, meanwhile, are also contesting their third final, having lost in 2006 against host nation Egypt after winning their only title in 1992 against Ghana – with both games being decided by penalties.

The Elephants are looking to become only the third side to win the Nations Cup without conceding a goal – which they themselves first achieved in 1992 before Cameroon repeated the feat in 2002.

Packed with stars of the calibre of Drogba, Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Didier Zokora, this Ivorian side has sacrificed flair for pragmatism as coach Francois Zahoui bids to fulfil the promise of a ‘golden generation’.

The first local coach to lead the Elephants since Yeo Martial in 1992, Zahoui’s playing years in Italy have rubbed off on a coach who says his main job is his defence – as he knows his forwards will always score.

One of those, Salomon Kalou, says the squad is determined to win the African crown to bring joy to their compatriots after the political turmoil of recent years in the previously peaceful West African nation.

“Our country went through a difficult moment, so we want to win for a public that has been suffering for so long,” he says. “As a footballer, the only thing we can give back to the country is to play 100 per cent and make them proud.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/16999874

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