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As the final two left standing in the Cup of Nations get ready to face each other in Libreville on Sunday night, looks at the battles that might help determine the victor

By Peter Pedroncelli | Africa Football Editor

The 2012 Africa Cup of Nations is near its end, and the two teams that have earned the right to challenge each other in the title match are Zambia and Cote d'Ivoire. Many would be surprised that the Chipolopolo have made it this far in the competition, but their performances have been sublime and they have the memory of the tragic 1993 plane crash, in which a whole squad perished, to motivate them.

Cote d'Ivoire will be looking to crown a phenomenal 2012 tournament with the title, which they last won in 1992. Since that victory two decades ago, the Elephants have been a force within African football, but their 'Golden Generation' is yet to bestow upon themselves the honour of an Afcon title. Their fans will be expecting a win from the Ivorians in Libreville this time around.

Ahead of this eagerly awaited Sunday night clash, explores the key factors that will determine the result between the African national teams that have dominated the 2012 Afcon.

The Chelsea striker has been in prolific form throughout the 2012 tournament, and if Zambia are to put a stop to his free-scoring ways, keeper Mweene will have to be at the top of his game. Both national-team icons have enjoyed fine performances in the five matches thus far, and this encounter will surely be decided by the one who outperforms the other on the day.

Drogba has scored three goals so far in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, while the Free State Stars shot-stopper has only conceded three goals in the competition, with none in the last two matches.

Advantage: Cote d'Ivoire

Cote d'Ivoire have already shown on a few occasions during the competition how lethal they can be when they are afforded too many free-kicks around the 18-yard area.

A stunning strike from Yaya Toure against co-hosts Equatorial Guinea will stand out as one of the goals of the tournament, while the likes of Gervinho and Drogba are more than capable of scoring from set-pieces. Zambia will need to be wary of fouling the Elephants close to their danger area, as they would not want to invite powerful strikes from the players listed above, coupled with time spent carefully focusing on their intended target and plotting their ballistic strategy.

Advantage: Cote d'Ivoire

It is clear that both the Chipolopolo and the Elephants have team spirit in abundance - perhaps that is why they are both in the final - but that same spirit will need to be maintained throughout the most important match at the 2012 Afcon.

Zambia captain Chris Katongo revealed that they model their group mentality on Egypt, explaining: "We've seen from the Egyptians the importance of team spirit. They didn't have any huge individual stars but collectively proved that spirit can get you far. That's one of the reasons why we've done so well here." On their part, the team spirit comes from the will to honour the memories of their fallen brethren who perished in the 1993 plane crash.

Advantage: Zambia


The Chipolopolo captain has been incredible throughout the competition, proving his qualities as a goalscorer and working tirelessly for the sake of his team. Those characteristics are shared with his final adversary on Sunday, Yaya Toure.

The Manchester City midfielder is crucial to the Elephants in terms of their defensive strategy and, with no goals yet conceded, it seems that he is doing his job very well. This will be a direct battle between the Zambian talisman, who often moves into attack through the midfield, and the African Player of the Year, who operates in that same area with the mandate of cutting off opposition attacks. The victor will be whoever is the most determined on the day.

Advantage: Cote d'Ivoire


Pressure is an important consideration for any encounter, but it mounts considerably when the match in question happens to be a final. There will be pressure on both national teams to return home victorious following a sublime tournament for the each of them, but, with little having been expected from the Chipolopolo ahead of the competition, the biggest weight will surely fall on the shoulders of the Elephants.

Zambia have nothing to lose in this fixture as they have already surpassed predictions and made their people proud. On the other hand, Cote d'Ivoire take to the pitch in Libreville knowing that their great generation is yet to prove their status with a trophy and that this could be the last chance to write their names into the history books, before father time has his way and consigns the likes of Drogba, Kolo Toure and Salomon Kalou to fading memory and nothing more.

Previous failures will be on their minds ahead of the game and, with psychology playing such a pivotal part in proceedings, the Chipolopolo might feel that they have an edge over their illustrious counterparts.

Advantage: Zambia