LIBREVILLE Coach Herve Renard hailed the spirit of his Zambian side after their unexpected African Nations Cup success on Sunday.
Zambia beat Ivory Coast 8-7 in a drama-filled penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw to win the Cup for the first time. Stoppila Sunzu converted the winning kick in a long and nervy shootout that totalled 18 kicks.
The 43-year-old Frenchman, who has only been a senior coach for four years, said he evoked the memory of the 18 Zambia players who died in an air crash in Gabon in 1993 to spur on his side during the tournament co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
They found the strength, I dont know where, he said fighting back the tears. There is something written somewhere. It just felt right but it was not because of me, I dont know where it came from.
We were talking about it right from the time we started our preparations on Dec. 28.
I told them if we got to the final we would play in Gabon where the plane crashed and our first match was against Senegal, where the team was headed to play. There was a special significance in that.
Zambia had gone into the game as underdogs but won over the 40 000 crowd in the Friendship Stadium in the Gabon capital with their positive play against a surprisingly timid Ivorian side.
My players were magnificent, said Renard. We were not the best, but we had a force that has made us African champions.
They might make some tactical mistakes here and there but you can see the talent.