Olisa Chukwumah - unveil the Elephants' mischievous hero

Sports broadcaster and journalist, Olisa Chukwumah shares insight and analysis of African Football

Ivory Coast finally got their hands on the African Cup of Nations title after a grueling a 9-8 penalty shoot-out with Ghana in the finals, but not without some drama which saw the immergence of an unlikely hero many would never have dreamed will have a part to play in this tale of happy endings for the Elephants.

It was all square and goalless after 120 minutes at the Estadio de Bata, with little to separate in a physical encounter between the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Although the Black Stars did hit the woodwork twice when Christian Atsu let fly a superb 25 yard left-footed strike and Andre Ayew hit the upright from a tight angle.

On to the dreaded penalty shoot-out for the decider and not all of us can stomach such nerve wracking, blood pumping sessions. Asamaoh Gyan was taken off before the final whistle at extra-time, meaning the Ghana captain would not have to go through the kind of responsibility and emotional turmoil witnessed in the South Africa 2010 World Cup semifinals.

Even Roma winger Gervinho – who missed a penalty against Zambia in 2012, opted to sit this one out and it looked like déjàvour all over again for the Elephants after Manchester City striker Wilfried Bony hit the crossbar and substitute Junior Tallo shot wide their penalties with Ghana converting their first two spot kicks.

But the Ivorian goalkeeper - Boubacar Barry, in goal for the first time in the tournament with injury to first choice Sylvain Gbohouo, made a name for himself saving Afriyie Acquah’s penalty before Ghana sub Frank Acheampong dragged his take wide allowing the Ivoirians back in the tie.

Barry then turned a mischievous hero for the Elephants as he appeared to be in pain from cramps; on more than one occasion needing treatment from the medics, much to the distaste of their opponents on the view of blatant time delaying antics.

Locked at 8-8, it was the turn of the goalkeepers to shoot from the spot. Barry dived the right way to save from his opposite number- Brimah Razak and after another show of agony this time requiring the magic spray, the 35 year old went on to calmly slot home the winner - ending his countries 23 year wait for a second Nations Cup title.

'If you're called to represent the nation you need to come without hesitation,' Barry said, 'even to sit on the bench.”It's not been easy but I've worked hard and reaped the rewards.'

Hero or villain Lokeren goalkeeper has been here before and was not about to leave empty handed. His injury problems in the shoot-out did not stop him from scoring with last kick of the tournament. Perhaps, was the psychological stroke needed to break the jinx for the Ivory Coast.

Ranked third on the continent and often tagged the golden generation with an array of international stars including their captain and current 4 time CAF player of the yearYaya Toure, the Ivoirians have always been viewed as favorites to win Africa’s most prestigious trophy but have fallen short in recent years. This time the Ivoirians were without the symbolic Didier Drogba in the tournament.

For the Ghanaians, runners up in 2010. Their 33 year quest for a fifth Nations cup title continues, the Black Stars were distraught as the trophy slipped away from their grasp, with tears and disbelieve for the inconsolable Andre Ayew.

The last time they won the tournament was in 1992, the Elephants took it 11-10 on penalties after a goalless draw with an Abedi Pele led Ghanaian side. They twice came close losing 4-2 on penalties to hosts Egypt in 2006 and were again unlucky in the shoot-out of the 2012 finals co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea which finished 8-7 in favor of Zambia, who were then coached by current Ivory Coast gaffe – Herve Renard.

History was made by Frenchman who has now won the nations cup with two countries.

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