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African Cup Of Nations: Zambia Upsets Ghana To Reach Final

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ZAMBIA UPSETS GHANA AFRICAN CUP OF NATIONS
Zambia's Emmanuel Mayuka does a cartwheel after scoring against Ghana during their African Cup of Nations semifinal match at Bata Stadium, in Bata, Equatorial Guinea Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012. | AP

BATA, Equatorial Guinea (AP) — Zambia reached the African Cup of Nations final for the first time since 1994, upsetting Ghana 1-0 Wednesday night to advance to the championship against tournament favorite Ivory Coast.

Emmanuel Mayuka scored in the 78th minute for Zambia, tied for 71st in the FIFA rankings.

Later at Libreville, Gabon, Ivory Coast defeated Mali 1-0 on a 45th-minute goal by Arsenal forward Gervinho.

Sunday's final will be at Libreville, the site of Zambia's worst sporting disaster in 1993. A plane carrying Zambia's national team to a World Cup qualifier in Senegal crashed just minutes after taking off, killing 25 players and officials.

"There's something written that we have to go to play to honor the memories of the Zambia national team that died in 1993," said Frenchman Herve Renard, Zambia's coach. "It was catastrophic for the nation. The 12 million people of Zambia are waiting for us to go back to Libreville. Immediately (after) we arrive, we will go to the place. We just have to think of them and play for them and play for Zambia because it's a fantastic country."

Ghana, which beat the United States en route to the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals, could have gone ahead in the eighth minute, but Asamoah Gyan's penalty kick was saved by goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene. In the World Cup quarterfinals against Uruguay two years ago, Gyan's penalty kick in overtime went off the crossbar, and the Black Stars were eliminated in a shootout.

Mayuka entered for the Copper Bullets at the start of the second half. No. 26 Ghana finished a man short after Derek Boateng was ejected in the 84th.

"This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in the final," Zambia captain Christopher Katongo said. "We go to the final without any pressure. We have to take this cup. This is an opportunity. It doesn't come every day."

At Libreville, 18th-ranked Ivory Coast went ahead when Gervinho capitalized on a defensive error to race half the length of the field and shoot past goalkeeper Soumaila Diakite.

Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure both hit posts as Ivory Coast dominated No. 69 Mali to reach the final without conceding a goal at the tournament. Les Elephants are seeking their first title since 1992.

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