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AFCON: Zambia triumph tops list of iconic AFCON moments

From Sunday, the 33rd instalment of the Africa Cup of Nations will unite audiences from Algeria's Mediterranean coast to the forests of Madagascar, via bustling downtown Lagos and the sparse Kenyan savannah.

 

The hosts, Cameroon, outside hopefuls, are at 11/20 to begin the event with a win over Burkina Faso, with all the action on the Sports Live Streaming hub.

The tournament's 65-year history has thrown up a score of memorable moments and as kick-off draws near, we take a look at five of the best.

Baba's dramatic winner

The first stop on our tour of AFCON history winds the clock back to 1976, to the 10th edition of the competition, held in Ethiopia.

This particular eight-team celebration of African football stands alone as being the only version of the tournament to be played without a final. Instead was decided that, in a similar vein to the World Cup of 1950, the honours would be decided via a second round-robin stage, between the top two finishers of the initial pair of groups.

But, as with Uruguay and Brazil at the Maracana, 26 years previously, the last match of the event did ultimately pit together the only two teams able to win it: Guinea and Morocco.

The Moroccans, who had relied on late goals to beat both Egypt and Nigeria in the final phase, came into the closing match needing only to draw. Guinea, their opponents, had thumped Egypt 4-2, but had only managed a share of the spoils in their opener against the Super Eagles, meaning only a win would see them crowned champions. Both were chasing their first title.

With the odds stacked against them, Guinea turned up the heat and opened the scoring after 33 minutes through Cherif Souleymane.

As full-time – and defeat – approached, Morocco's Baba found himself in space, thirty yards out. Afforded room to shoot by the Guinea defenders, the central midfielder let fly a firecracker of a right-footed strike that ripped past shellshocked goalkeeper Abdoulaye Sylla, handing the Atlas Lions their only win to date.

Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire go the distance

A 0-0 final is rarely a showstopper – that much is universal. But when every man on the field is made to take a spot-kick, regardless of position or ability, a place in legend is naturally merited.

This was the situation in the AFCON of 2015. In the port city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, who had fended off Guinea and the hosts in the knockout phase, scoring six unanswered goals in the process, faced the Ivorians, who had recovered from two opening draws to defeat Algeria and DR Congo in the quarters and semis.

In hitting the woodwork twice through Christian Atsu and Andre Ayew in the first half, the Ghanaians could afford to feel the more aggrieved of the two sides at the prospect of a penalty shootout. Their patience, however, looked to have paid off after just two kicks apiece.

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Following Junior Tallo's miss, Ghana led 2-0, and if charismatic Cote d'Ivoire stopper Boubacar Barry had not managed to keep out Afriyie Acquah's effort number three, the Black Stars would have held an early match point.

Future Tottenham man Serge Aurier netted to consolidate Barry's stop, and minutes later, Seydou Doumbia was on hand to level the scores following Frank Acheampong's unsuccessful kick.

With the tie now effectively at sudden death, the next ten penalties all found the net, leaving just the two goalkeepers to go head-to-head at 8-8. Brimah Razak could find no way past Barry, who, despite needing treatment on a wrist injury immediately after his save, turned around to fire the Ivorians to a 9-8 win in the shootout.

An unforgettable ending to any cup final – but stranger still, it had happened once before…

Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire go the distance… 23 years earlier

In Senegal in 1992, the facts were the same: the Ghanaians and the Ivorians were locked at 0-0 after extra time. With Basile Aka Kouame having opened the spot-kicks successfully for the Elephants, Ghana's Anthony Baffoe had the unenviable task of levelling. With a low shot into the bottom left corner, he managed just that.

Tony Yeboah squeezed a tame effort home to tie the affair at 4-4 after five kicks each. Cue twelve straight conversions, and in a scarcely believable fashion, the shootout was back where it started, with Aka Kouame and Baffoe.

The former shot straight at the goalkeeper, but his penalty squeezed in; Baffoe, visibly relieved after his first spot-kick, lined up for a second with the pressure increased tenfold. His saved effort handed Cote d'Ivoire a hard-fought first title.

Egypt make it three in a row

Making second on the list is a series of memorable events. After beating Ivorian opposition on penalties in 2006 to claim victory on home soil, Egypt had defended their AFCON title in Ghana two years later. Their 1-0 win over Cameroon took them to Angola's 2010 edition with the chance to seal an unprecedented treble.

Surviving a quarter-final scare against a revenge-seeking Cameroon, a 4-0 drubbing of Algeria set up a final encounter with Ghana, themselves on the hunt for a first crown since 1982.

A tight affair looked destined for the extra period, before Gedo, a late introduction from the bench, clinched Egypt's hat-trick of trophies with just five minutes remaining. Incredibly, Gedo had appeared as a substitute in all six games of the tournament, yet still finished as the highest scorer, finding the net five times in just 173 minutes of action.

Three seasons later, he would make two Premier League appearances as a Hull City loanee – also from the bench.

Zambia honour class of '93

When it comes to moments that made AFCON, there can only be one to top the list and that is Zambia's 2012 win against the odds.

In 1993, a flight carrying the Zambian squad to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier departed from Gabon, the final leg of the journey to Dakar. An explosion over the Gulf of Guinea, seconds after take-off, killed all 30 people on board, including 18 players and the team coach.

Miraculously, a brand-new team had honoured the fallen just a year later, finishing runners-up to Nigeria at the 1994 AFCON.

Fast forward almost two decades of failed qualification, group-stage exits and shootout-defeats, Zambia arrived at the 2012 tournament as Africa's 16th-ranked side, grossly unfancied in an event held between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

An opening win over Senegal sparked a remarkable run to the semi-finals, where a single goal was enough to overcome Ghana and set up a return to Libreville, the Gabonese capital. There, within just miles of their country's greatest sporting tragedy, Zambia forced a penalty shootout, though dreams looked to have been dashed when Rainford Kabala, a kick away from a historic victory, blasted his effort over the crossbar.

However, a missed Gervinho penalty, similarly sent skyward, allowed Stoppila Sunzu to pelt the winner into the top right corner, sealing a heroic underdog win for Herve Renard's side.

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