Zambia v Ivory Coast The Final 19:00 Sun
After a month of grafting, Sunday will bring us the long anticipated 2012 African Cup of Nations final where Paddy Power make the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) heavy odds on favourites as they take on Zambia.
The tournament is a rare chance for the countries of the continent to come together and put aside any strife, bloodshed or civil war that may be going on in their respective nation.
1992 winners of the tournament Côte d’Ivoire showed in 2006 the power football really has over people when, after months of bloodshed, their 20 million-strong population reached a truce between both factions of the civil war that was going on in the country so that the nation would be well supported in the 2006 World Cup.
The Didier Drogba-led side are one of the ‘big dogs’ in African football but Zambia – who have never won the tournament – are somewhat of a surprise addition to the final.
An astonishing 68% of the population of Zambia lie below the poverty line, and while the country have never won an ACON title in their history, the outright underdogs will be hoping to change that come Sunday.
With critics abundant and controversy all around in some of the more ‘elite’ footballing nations, this fixture will undoubtedly hold a special significance to both teams involved.
Overpaid footballers, simulation, racism. All these factors tend to take a backseat in the African competition in place of sheer pride and loyalty for their nation.
Premier League stars such as Drogba, Gervinho, Cheick Tioté, Salomon Kalou as well as Kolo and Yaya Touré will be hoping to secure their first ACON title on Sunday before returning to action in England later on in the month.
Although Les Elephants are firm favourites to win the final, Zambia have been no slouches in over the past month, knocking the likes of Senegal and Ghana out of the running and will present a substantial opposition for Côte d’Ivoire.
Fans of the tournament need not be too upset though, because the African Cup of Nations will be making a normally impromptu return in 2013.