Libyan team return home with African trophy

Libya won the African Nations Championship after beating Ghana on Saturday

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Thousands of Libyan football fans greeted their national team on Tuesday at Benghazi’s Benina International Airport after winning the African Nations Championship on Saturday.

Libya lifted its first international football title by beating favorite and West African power Ghana on penalties in the final played in Cape Town, South Africa.

Libya’s penalty kings, coached by former Spain boss Javier Clemente, won 4-3 in sudden death in the shootout after it was 0-0 through 90 minutes and extra time at Cape Town Stadium. Libya also won penalty shootouts in the quarterfinals and semifinals in South Africa.

The African Nations Championship is the continent’s lower-level tournament for home-based players, but that mattered little for the Libyans, whose best football achievement was watched by FIFA President Sepp Blatter at the former World Cup stadium. Blatter handed out the medals to the Libyan players.

The Libyan team will fly to the capital Tripoli later this week, where they will be greeted by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in a planned mass celebration.

Libya’s best result before Saturday’s triumph was reaching the final of the main African Cup on home soil in 1982, when it lost to Ghana on penalties. It handed over hosting rights for this tournament and last year’s full continental championship following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 and because of the ongoing violence.

Libya will host the main African Cup of Nations in 2017.

(With Associated Press)

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