Stand in goalkeeper Boubacar Barry was the unlikely hero as Ivory Coast beat Ghana 9-8 in a dramatic African Nations Cup final penalty shootout to win his nation’s second continental championship following a 0-0 draw.
Barry, only playing because first-choice Sylvain Gbohouo was injured, scored the decisive penalty as Ivory Coast ended their 23-year drought for the continental championship.
“This is the compensation for everything we’ve done since 2000, it’s for the good of Ivory Coast,” Barry told reporters.
“I thank everyone who’s contributed to the national side since 2000, they made it possible and we’ve finally received our reward.
Barry, a key member of the team’s fabled golden generation for much of the last decade, was dropped by coach Herve Renard after a 4-3 home defeat by Democratic Republic of Congo during qualification.
His replacement Gbohouo impressed Renard enough to take the starting berth during the Nations Cup.
However, a thigh injury for Gbohouo meant that Barry returned to the side for the final against Ghana, making his first start since October.
“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.”
The erratic goalkeeper proved to be the hero in the shootout. With the teams tied at 8-8 and with all 10 outfield players having taken their spot kicks, it fell to the goalkeepers to settle the contest.
Barry, who had been suffering from cramp, saved the penalty from his opposite number Razak Braimah before converting himself.
“At that moment I thought of God and I thought of my mother,” he concluded.
“It’s been hard for her as I haven’t been playing. The most important thing is the country. Thing aren’t always easy, but that’s life.”