Goalkeeper Boubacar Barry was the hero as Cote d’Ivoire beat Ghana 9-8 to clinch their second Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) title in Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
Copa Barry saved two spot-kicks and scored the match-winning kick to help Ivory Coast clinch the 2015 Afcon having ended extra-time with the match evenly poised in Bata.
A total of five penalties failed to find the back of the net with the Elephants recovering from missing their opening two kicks to embarking on a sustained run of spot kick galore.
Despite netting his penalty and trying but to no avail to cheer up his team-mates during another lengthy shootout, Ghana forward Andre Ayew broke down in uncontrollable tears; as was the case with his father Abedi Pelle twenty three years ago when Ivory Coast lifted their first trophy also on penalties- 11-10 the outcome in Senegal.
The Black Stars were on the verge of avenging that loss after Manchester City’s new recruit Wilfried Bony hit the crossbar and substitute Junior Tallo misfired with his first touch of the game. All hopes for a fifth Ghana title fizzled out in a twinkle of an eye as Afriyie Azquah and Frank Achaempong could not find target.
The shootout drama turned into sudden death. After all ten outfield players had taken turn, Barry kept out his counterpart Brimah Razak’s effort and then poked home from 12 yards to seal victory and send his team-mates and country into wild celebration.
The outcome means Frenchman Herve Renard is the first coach to win two Afcon title with different teams having led Zambia to success in 2012, when they beat Ivory Coast on penalties. That defeat harped emphasis on the Elephants’ previous underachievers status as they were also beaten finalists in 2006 against Egypt.
Moreover, Ghana could hold their heads up high following another re-assuring display in open play. Coach Avram Grant’s men twice hit the woodwork, with Christian Atsu’s hapless 25-yard shot clipping the upright, while Ayew could only watch from a tight angle as his effort came off the outside of the right post.
With both sides employing a cautious approach; the cagey affair dragged on offering little to satisfy the fans’ desire for firework.
And when Asamoah Gyang made way for Tallo, Gervinho for Salomon Kalou in the closing minutes of second half extra-time; every close observer knew the stage was set for a perfect spot-kick and, indeed lightning struck again.
Six of the last 12 Afcon finals have now been decided by penalties.