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Zambia put to rest almost 20 years of hurt at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations when they honoured those who died in the Gabon air disaster in 1993 by winning the tournament for the first time in their history.
It was an incredible showing from the Southern Africans, who demonstrated a unity, team spirit and incredible determination that made them worthy winners of the continental prize.
Coach Herve Renard deserves credit for getting the best out of his squad and instilling in them a fearsome winning mentality that drove them on through the tournament.
Chipolopolo topped Group A after wins over Senegal and Equatorial Guinea sandwiched a 2-2 draw with Libya on a sodden pitch in Bata.
They then cruised past Sudan 3-0 in the quarterfinals before shocking Ghana 1-0 in the semis.
The final against mighty Cote dIvoire ended goalless after 120 minutes and Zambia scraped through to glory in the penalty shootout, with the excellent Stopilla Sunzu netting the final penalty to confirm victory.
Other stars of their campaign were goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, attackers Emmanuel Mayuka and Rainford Kalaba, as well as the official player of the tournament, captain Chris Katongo.
Zambia head into their 15th Africa Cup appearance still without a championship medal with only two second place finishes to their name despite their potential.
Chipolopolo capped their qualification for the 2012 finals with the shock sacking of their coach Dario Bonetti.
The Italian was fired just 48 hours after securing Zambias qualification to the Gabon and Equatorial Guinea tournament after his side was held to a scoreless home draw in Chingola by a resolute Libya on October 8.
If that was not controversial enough, the Football Association of Zambia made the shocking decision to re-hire Herve Renard.
Renard returns almost two years after dumping Zambia in April 2010 for a lucrative two-year deal with Angola that ended with his dismissal four months later following a spate of poor results.
The Frenchman had some success in his initial stint, guiding Zambia to their first quarterfinal appearance at the Africa Cup since 1996 when they collected bronze in South Africa.
However, Renards return has divided a nation that has yet to forgive him for ditching Chipolopolo for Angola that he compounded this past September by publically giving his backing for Zambia presidential elections losing candidate Rupiah Banda.
And after a dramatic climax to Chipolopolo post-qualifying run, the question remains if Renard will win the battle for hearts and minds in his second coming come January 21.
|2012 AFRICA CUP OF NATIONS TEAM RECORD
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