Zambia v Ivory Coast preview
Zahoui optimistic of Africa Cup of Nations final success
Last Updated: 12/02/12 11:29am
Drogba: Three goals so far
Ivory Coast coach Francois Zahoui is quietly optimistic ahead of Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final against Zambia.
The pair will collide at Stade d'Angondje, in Libreville, with the Elephants strongly favoured to emulate their 1992 AFCON title success.
Zahoui's charges have won all five of their games at the tournament, most recently edging Mali 1-0 in the semi-finals. Notably, they have yet to concede a goal - much to Zahoui's delight.
"Happily our defence has been very mature and solid since the beginning of the competition," he said.
"After our past failures we knew that as long as we don't concede any goals we can make the difference up front. Our ambitions remain in place."
The star-studded Elephants possess one of the strongest attacks in world football, with Didier Drogba, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou, as well as African Footballer of the Year Yaya Toure all capable of causing damage.
Nevertheless, Zahoui is wary of Chipolopolo, who stunned four-time continental champions Ghana 1-0 in their last-four encounter.
"They are a young, very buoyant side who play good football. They attack and cause problems for any team they come across," he said.
Zambia, twice runners-up at the event, have scored the same amount of goals as the Ivorians (9), winning four of their games and drawing one.
Influential skipper Christopher Katongo and fellow striker Emmanuel Mayuka - who netted the winner against the Black Stars - are likely to pose a threat. The duo each have three goals so far - the same as Drogba.
Emotions are expected to run exceptionally high on the weekend. Herve Renard's men are desperate to honour the memory of a 1993 plane crash off the Gabon coast that wiped out one of their most promising national squads.
On Thursday, Zambia arrived in Libreville and headed to the nearest mainland spot to the crash to pay homage to the 30 people that lost their lives.
"It is no coincidence that we are here (in Libreville) today, we have worked hard as a team," said Zambian Football Federation President Kalusha Bwalya.
"I pray that their souls may forever rest in peace and that God will give us the strength and the courage to fulfil our dreams.... and theirs."
Bwalya, a former African Footballer of the Year, was a member of the ill-fated squad but escaped death as he was traveling separately from his club in Europe.
Africa Cup of Nations Group A
Africa Cup of Nations Group B
Africa Cup of Nations Group C
Africa Cup of Nations Group D