Rarely do teams rebound from two penalties down to achieve victory.
Ivory Coast did last Sunday, scoring nine straight penalty kicks after missing their first two to defeat West African neighbours Ghana 9-8 and clinch its second Africa Cup of Nations soccer crown.
The two teams were scoreless after extra time.
Boubacar Barry, who replaced an injured Sylvain Gbohouo in goal in the final, was the hero. With the goalkeepers on the spot for penalty kicks, 35-year-old Barry saved Ghanaian’s Razak Brimah shot and then sealed the game with his spot-kick.
“I am not big in talent nor in size, but I want to progress and I worked for the team,” an emotional Barry said after the championship match.
Ivory Coast captain and four-time Africa Soccer Player of the Year Yaya Toure was just eight-years-old when his country clinched its first continental championship 23 years ago with an 11-10 penalty kicks win over four-time champions Ghana which has not won the competition since 1982.
“When you win with your club, it’s amazing,” said the Manchester City midfielder, who has represented his country in six Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. “With your country, it’s unbelievable. I had been waiting to lift the trophy for who knows how long. As captain, it’s so special. It’s a breath of fresh air. Our chance finally came. I am so happy and relieved.”
Herve Renard, who became the first coach to win two Africa Cup of Nations titles with two different countries after leading Zambia to its first championship three years ago, dedicated the victory to the Ivorian people.
“Soccer has this magic element in that it unites all the ethnic groups, all the people who perhaps don’t think the same way,” said the 46-year-old Frenchman. “Ivory Coast is more than delighted today and that’s the most important thing.”
Ivory Coast reached the final for the third time in nine years with a convincing 3-1 win over the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo while Ghana shut out host country Equatorial Guinea 3-0 in a match that was marred by crowd violence.
In the playoff for third place, two-time winners the Democratic Republic of Congo defeated Equatorial Guinea 4-2 on penalty kicks last Saturday. The two teams were goalless at the end of extra time.
Ghanaian Andre Ayew, who plays for Marseille in the French League, won the tournament’s top scorer award with three goals and two assists while teammate Christian Atsu captured the Player and Goal of the Tournament awards.
British-born Ghanaian striker Kwesi Appiah and the Democratic Republic of Congo were recognized with the Fair Player and Fair Play awards, respectively.
Meanwhile, Morocco has been banned from the next two Africa Cup of Nations tournaments after pulling out at the last minute to host the just concluded competition.
The country’s soccer federation was also fined nearly $325,000 and ordered to pay almost $3 million in damages.
Morocco had express concerns about hosting the tournament following the Ebola outbreak. The Confederation of African Soccer (CAF) turned down their request to delay the competition until next year.
Last November, Equatorial Guinea was named as the replacement host and Morocco, which had automatically qualified as the host country, was expelled.
The governing body for soccer in Africa also fined Equatorial Guinea $100,000 for crowd trouble during last Thursday’s semi-final loss to Ghana. The match was suspended for 30 minutes after home supporters threw missiles on the pitch. A total of 36 fans were injured.
Tunisian Soccer Federation president Wadie Jary was also banned from all CAF activities after his organization failed to apologize for accusing Africa’s soccer governing body of cheating. Tunisia made the allegations after conceding a controversial penalty in the 91st minute in a 2-1 overtime loss to Equatorial Guinea in the quarter-finals.