2014 African Nations Championship - Fulfilling their pre-match prophecy 'to banish the memories of 1982 into history and write a new chapter with victory', the Libyan national football team, called the Mediterranean Knights, prevailed against favourites Ghana, lifting the 2014 African Nations Championship (CHAN) here Saturday with a 4-3 penalty shootout victory.
The match had ended goalless after 120 minutes but the Libyans, determined to 'pay Ghana in their own coins', edged the Black Stars during the penalty shootout to complete their revenge mission after waiting for 32 years.
The Libyan team's administrative manager, Wail Bazina, who was only four years old in 1982 when Ghana beat Libya in Tripoli 7-6 on penalties to win the 1982 African Nations Cup (CAN), told the CAF media outlet before Saturday's match that winning the CHAN Cup would be the best present the violence-wrecked country could ever wish for at this particular time.
“The whole country is behind the team and expectant as well as ready to celebrate and embrace this occasion. It is our dream to win and take the Cup with us to Libya and give Libyans something to cheer about and uplift the nation,” Bazina had predicted.
”It has been a long time since we last played a final and we know what happened then and we certainly would like to get one back against Ghana this time round,” added Bazina
In the words of their Spanish Coach, Javier Clemente, Libya had ridden their luck in the semi-final against Zimbabwe and hoped that good fortune carried the team on.
Good fortune indeed was with the Libyans who got their own pound of flesh against Ghana after losing at home in 1982.
During Saturday's penalty shootout, Ghanaian goalkeeper Stephen Adams saved two spot kicks from Mohamed Elgadi and Abdelsalam Omar after the first five kicks tied at 3-3 and the sudden death penalties ensued.
Ahmed El Trbi scored the sixth penalty for Libya before Joshua Tijani missed his for Ghana to spark wild celebrations.
That match was played before an appreciative crowd of about 17,000 that included CAF President Issa Hayatou and his invited guest FIFA President Sepp Blatter.
The 1982 CAN finals and the 2014 CHAN campaign for both teams had a lot in common.
Both teams, playing in the same group in 1982, had drawn 2-2 in the opening match but the Ghanaians triumphed when it mattered most in the final match.
Similarly, at the 2014 CHAN, Libya and Ghana again belonged to the same group (C) in Bloemfontein, drawing 1-1 in their group match on 17 January, 2014. And like the final match in Tripoli, South Africa 2014 final encounter also ended on penalties.
Libya will host the 2017 CAN and their coach is using the CHAN to build a team with that tournament in mind.
'Reaching the CHAN final will certainly have gone someway in justifying the work and time we have invested in the project for 2017,' Clemente said, adding that the focus in South Africa was to derail Ghana who contested and lost the first CHAN final in 2009.
For the Libyans, the defeat was indeed 'mission accomplished'.
News analysis by Vincent Obi, PANA Editor