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Feb, 13, 2012

Zambia win "written in the stars"

Zambia coach Herve Renard believes his team's surprise victory over Ivory Coast in Sunday's African Nations Cup final was "written in the stars".

• Zambia: Kings of Africa

Nineteen years after a plane crash that killed 18 members of the Zambia squad in Libreville, the Chipolopolo returned to the capital of Gabon to record the most famous victory in the country's history.

Renard's side took favourites Ivory Coast to extra-time and then won a dramatic penalty shoot-out when Gervinho missed and Stophira Sunzu stepped up to slot home for Zambia.

After being crowned champions of Africa, Renard said: "We know what we wanted to honour this evening. It was a sign of destiny, written in the stars. There was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength."

At the final whistle, Renard embraced Kalusha Bwalya, the Zambian Football Federation chief and only survivor of the ill-fated '93 national team, who also appointed him coach of Zambia in 2008, and again in 2010.

Renard said: "Kalusha was one of the best Zambian players of the last century. Then he was coach of the national team, now our president.

"He survived the crash - he was supposed to have been on that plane which was going to play a World Cup qualifier against Senegal. He knows how terrible this crash was for the nation.

"I want to dedicate this title to him. He gave me my chance when nobody knew me. With Claude LeRoy and Kalusha I have been fortunate to have met these two people along my journey."

Renard also said Zambia had been lucky to play all their games up to the final across the border in Equatorial Guinea, explaining: "It was only possible for us to return to Gabon (to honour the 1993 team) if we made the final. That gave us incredible strength."

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