Sunzu Stoppila converted his penalty to hand Zambia an 8-7 victory over Ivory Coast to win the Africa Cup of the Nations for the first time.
The Zambians came out of the blocks the more aggressive side going straight into attack from the blast of the whistle and almost clinched a shocking lead.
Christopher Katongo drew a corner kick which was expertly taken with the ball falling to Himonde Hichani but his shot was well saved by the attentive Barry in the Cote d’Ivoire goal.
The Chipoloplo continued to dominate proceedings in the first ten minutes hurrying the dangerous Ivorian side into making petty mistakes.
Joseph Musoda’s night was caught short after he failed to recover from an earlier knock. His place was taken by Henri Mulenga as he wept of the field of play.
Emmanuel Mayuka came close to snatching the lead in the 13th minute when his header off a Sunzu Stopilla chip went agonizingly over the bar. Zambia were clearly probing the Ivorian goal.
The Ivorian just couldn’t keep up to the pace of the Chipolopolo and were often caught in possession through faulty passes despite the obvious abetment of referee Diatta Badara.
The Elephants were clearly playing to the counter and it almost paid dividends with devastating menace in the 23rd minute.
Off a failed corner attack by the Zambians, all was need was just two touchs to see Salomon Kalou run onto a pass through the channels but substitute Mulenga was there to clear the danger.
On swift passing game by the Ivorians against the run of play failed to get the desired result as Yaya Toure watched his snap shot go wide with much pain in the 29th minute.
The fearless Chipolopolo who grew in confidence by the minute were just a delight to watch as they went through their intricate passing with style and panache which was well appreciated by the packed Stade de l’Amitie.
Zambia maintained firm control of the game until recess, something which will very much worry Coach Francois Zahoui.
The second half however started at a significantly dropped tempo compared to the first with the Ivoirians looking more determined to over but the Zambians not willing.
The frustration by the 65th minute was beginning to emanate from the Ivorian side as they picked a couple of silly bookings mainly based on petulance.
The Zambians hardwork which had failed to rip any results was duly appeared to have been punished with a 69th minute penalty following a foul on a marauding Gervinho by Isaac Chansa.
However Didier Drogba’s kick sky rocketed into the heavens to the much relief of majority of the packed stadium who have supported the underdogs all night long.
It was the second missed penalty by the Chelsea ace in the tournament with his first miss coming against co-hosts Equatorial Guinea in the quarter finals.
Cote d’Ivoire looked the more confused side as Zambia mounted a charge for the winner during the latter parts of the highly entertaining game.
The Elephants however came the closest to snatching victory two minutes from time as substitute Gradel Max Alan shot wide after collecting a lose aerial ball in the Zambian area.
Then it was the turn of the Zambians to take a crack at goal. After some delightful one-two with Chansa, Mayuka’s intended lob was deflected off by Kolo Toure for a corner which was eventually wasted.
It was the last real action for the game as the referee whistled for the end of the game which also meant the match was headed for extra time and probably penalty shootouts.
The impressive Chipoloplo almost took the lead in the 95th minute but Captain Christopher Katongo’s strike after being fed by brother Felix on the right wing was deflected off the post of the despairing Barry in the Ivory Coast goal.
Didier Ya Konan almost got the breakthrough 105th minute when he saw his guided curler gradually rise above the Zambia cross bar.
Great piece of defending two minutes after by Sol Bamba then prevented Christopher Katongo from squaring the ball to Mayuka who was waiting to pounce.
Zambia showed their dominance by maintaining control of the game from the start of it through the 120 minutes of play to the end.
The game had reached the dreaded penalty shootouts where one team was destined to come up tops.
And by the balance of play, the Chipolopolo looked the more deserving side to win the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
With both Kolo Toure and Gervinho missing their consecutive kicks the deciding kick laid with Stoppila after Rainford Kalaba also blasted his opportunity high and wide.
The Zanaco midfielder stepped up amidst chants from the packed Stade de l’Amitie to coolly slot home to send the stadium agog and also to complete a fairy tale story.
Ivory Coast exactly twenty years ago had won their first CAN through a marathon penalty shootout against Ghana in Senegal.