He has been exemplary throughout this tournament, but forced under the harsh scrutiny of a penalty shoot-out for the second time in a week, Didier Drogba saw his kick saved as Ivory Coast lost the final of the African Nations' Cup to the hosts Egypt, who became the first country to win the tournament for a fifth time.
No stigma should attach itself to Drogba over the penalty, for his kick was hard and low. This was simply an excellent save from Essam El Hadary, springing away to his right. What the Chelsea forward will have nightmares about is his miss 13 minutes from the end of normal time, as he scooped over from six yards after a thrust into the box from Arouna Kone.
At that stage the momentum just seemed to be tipping the way of the Ivorians. They had defended stoutly and with conviction, and if they were slightly fortunate that Amr Zaki, in for the suspended Mido, nervously snatched at a couple of first-half chances, they probably deserved their luck for their effort. They might even have stolen a first-half lead had Kolo Touré been able to direct a sidefoot volley on target as a corner was deflected into his path. His anguished reaction suggests he too will find his dreams disturbed by thoughts of what might have been.
Mido himself, after a public apology and a televised handshake with Hassan Shehata, the coach whose decision to replace him in the semi-final had prompted the outburst for which he was by the Egyptian FAbanned for six months, was sufficiently rehabilitated to clamber down from the press box to join his team-mates on the touchline to watch the extra time and penalties.
As the extra period began, it appeared that the Egyptian staff were asking tournament officials if Mido could play. The request was declined, but soon after the Tottenham striker was able to join the rest of the squad in celebrating on the pitch after the decisive spot-kick.
In time, it will be those memories that will endure, and the sight of Mido furiously wagging his finger in the face of Shehata will become but a curious aside. So too will be forgotten the unease in which Egypt existed for the last 60 of the 120 minutes played.
Twice in the closing minutes the crowd was sent into relieved rapture, and twice their delirium was cut short. First Amr bundled a rebound over the line after a remarkable double save from Jean-Jacques Tizie, sprinting away in celebration before realising that Mohamed Shawki had already been ruled offside.
Then, four minutes into extra time, the controversial Tunisian official Mourad Daami bafflingly gave a penalty after a legitimate but slightly clumsy challenge from Koffiblaise Kouassi on Mohamed Barakat, awakening once again all the doubts about refereeing in this tournament. The Ivorians protested with fury and some justification, and when the Egypt captain, Ahmed Hassan, was finally able to take his penalty, he drove it against the post.
He at least had the opportunity for redemption. Having already scored twice from the spot in the tournament, he took Egypt's first kick in the shoot-out, and converted it confidently. Drogba then missed, and although Abdel Hamid put his kick wide, El Hadary, the hero of the hour, immediately blocked from Bokari Kone, leaving Mohamed Abou Terika, arguably the player of the tournament, to convert the decisive kick.
Egypt (3-4-1-2): El Hadary (Ahly); Gomaa (Ahly), El Saka (Konyaspor), Said (Zamalek); Barakat (Ahly), Shawki (Ahly), Hassan (Besiktas), Wahab (Ahly); Abou Terika (Ahly); Amr (Enppi), Motaeb (Ahly). Substitutes used: Fathi (Ismaili) for Gomaa, 21; Mustafa (Ahly) for Motaeb, 82; Halim (Zamalek) for Said, 113.
Ivory Coast (4-4-2): Tizie (Esperance); Eboué (Arsenal), K Touré (Arsenal), Kouassi (Troyes), Boka (Strasbourg); Fae (Nantes), Zokora (St-Etienne), Y Toure, (Olympiakos), Akale (Auxerre); A Kone (PSV), Drogba (Chelsea). Substitutes used: Kalou (PSG) for Akale, 61; B Kone (Nice) for Y Toure, 91.
Referee: M Daami (Tunisia).Reuse content