|Ivory Coast are the only side to complete the qualifiers with a hundred percent record, and have kept that winning streak at the tournament, winning five matches without conceding a goal [REUTERS]
Ivory Coast's golden generation are one game away from their consecration as African football's best team after progressing efficiently to Sunday's Africa Cup of Nations final, but must still get past dangerous Zambia.
After several successive tournaments in which they failed to live up to predictions of glory, the Ivorians start as huge favourites to win the Nations Cup in Libreville.
Zambia themselves exceeded expectations in reaching the final with a largely unknown squad, only one of whom plays at a European club.
Their semi-final win over Ghana marked the second major scalp Zambia had taken at the tournament after an opening-day win over Senegal, another of the pre-tournament favourites.
Ivory Coast's cautious, sometimes uninspiring, approach has attracted criticism but the insistence on putting a priority on defence has paid dividends for coach Francois Zahoui.
The Ivorians have yet to concede a goal in the tournament, co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, and have won all five matches en route to the final.
The performance contrasts with the disastrous defensive lapses that cost the country dearly in the last two tournaments which they had also been expected to win.
They also possess a potent line-up of individual attacking talent, as striker Solomon Kalou emphasised after their semi-final win.
"We are better organised than before and we have players who can score at any moment - Gervinho, Didier Drogba, myself. We can all make a difference," he said.
"It's been a long wait to get back to the final," added Kolo Toure, one of eight players from the team that lost on penalties to Egypt in the final six years ago.
"We now need to use this experience to win. It will mean so much to our country."
Zambia had emerged "from under the radar" said coach Herve Renard, who has shown clever tactical planning at key moments in the tournament.
"We have to take this cup, this is an opportunity," added captain Chris Katongo.
"This is the greatest moment ever a player can have to play in the final. It doesn't come every day."