THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Africa Cup of Nations ~ Ivory Coast keep clean sheets but still lose
Zambia celebrated a penalty shoot-out victory over Ivory Coast in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations last night. It is the fourth time in seven tournaments the competition has been settled by penalties, the most recent coming in 2006 when Ivory Coast lost to Egypt. The Elephants became the first side history to lose the tournament without conceding a single goal in normal or extra time. Zambia triumphed 8-7 in the shoot-out, defying their underdog position and winning the tournament for the first time.

In 1993 a plane crash killed 18 Zambia players as they were taking off from the Gabonese capital of Libreville, where last night's final was played. The Chipolopolo players said the tragic crash was the inspiration for their victory.

Premier League ~ Grant Holt responds to Swansea boos
Two of the promoted sides laid on an exciting display of attacking football at the Liberty Stadium, as Norwich City inflicted Swansea's second home defeat of the season. Having lost 3-0 at Swansea last season, Norwich were determined to get revenge. It came in the form of Grant Holt. The striker enraged Swansea fans this week when he tweeted "good team nice ground shame there welsh" [sic]. He was booed throughout the match, but scored twice as the Canaries won 3-2 win. Norwich are now eighth in the table, just four points behind Liverpool.

Championship ~ Leeds fans protest against Bates
Leeds United fans marched from the city centre to Elland Road before their game against Brighton to protest against Ken Bates' leadership and the direction the club is moving in. Although they lie four points short of the Championship play-offs, Leeds have not beaten a team that has finished the game with 11 men since Millwall on December 3. On Saturday they lost 2-1 to a Brighton team managed by Gus Poyet. The Uruguayan would be a popular choice as manager of Leeds, though he has said it is not the right time for him to take the position. This news will come as a blow to Leeds fans, who watched Poyet's team go above them in the league thanks for Alan Navarro's injury-time winner.

League One ~ Blades pile pressure on Owls
Only three League One games survived the cold weather this weekend, two of which involved the Sheffield clubs. United ended the weekend happier, having swept aside Wycombe Wanderers at Bramall Lane. Wednesday lost 2-1 at Exeter. United have been in fantastic form recently, losing just twice in 11 games and scoring plenty of goals in the process. With Ched Evans and new loanee Will Hoskins up front, United will be confident they can move into the automatic promotion places. They sit one point behind Wednesday with two games in hand. Next up, though, are fourth-place Huddersfield Town, with the Steel City derby looming at the end of the month.

League Two ~ Torquay's amazing form continues
With all but three matches in League Two postponed, Torquay United beat promotion rivals Shrewsbury 1-0 to move up to fourth place. Having won only three games until mid-October, Torquay have taken 38 points from the last 45 available. They are now just three behind leaders Cheltenham, who will be disappointed they only managed a draw away at Hereford United, though that point did return them to the division's summit.

Bundesliga ~ Schalke lose out at top in Germany
Borussia Monchengladbach increased their chances of lifting the Bundesliga title with a 3-0 win over Schalke. The sides, fourth and third respectively before the match at Borussia Park, were both trying to close the gap on Dortmund at the top of the league. The win put Gladbach above their opponents. They remain three points behind the leaders and one behind second-place Bayern Munich. That this was a top of the table clash at all is remarkable, as both clubs were almost relegated last season. Tom Hocking

Comments (4)
Comment by kevchenko13 2012-02-13 13:34:17

I love WSC. On the weekend where the Suarez debacle rolled on miserably, Spurs thumped Newcastle, Chelsea slipped further into "crisis" and WBA's win at Wolves was the end of Mick McCarthy's reign, the EPL match focussed on is our excellent away win at Swansea. Chalks up a third League 'double' for the Canaries - Bolton and QPR being the others.

Comment by Houdi Elbow 2012-02-13 15:18:24

Automatic promotion is gradually slipping away and the number of goals we are conceding late in games is getting ridiculous. Gary Madine has reverted to the body language of a spoilt teenager again and the fact that he has only scored in games that Ben Marshall played in is a real worry. As expected the loss of Marshall has left a creative hole and neither of his replacements, Jones and Bostock, have started well. Stevenage aren't the opposition we need for the next game either.

Comment by geobra 2012-02-13 15:19:58

Novara's shock 1-0 win against Inter at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium was given added poignancy by the presence on their bench of the 65-year-old Emiliano Mondonico. Just over a year ago he took leave of absence from his post at AlbinoLeffe to undergo surgery for a stomach tumour. He was back within three weeks, the tumour apparently benign, but in the summer it reappeared. It seemed impossible that he would ever coach again, but he survived and at the end of January he replaced Attilio Tesser as coach of a Novara side in dire straits. His first game in charge was a 2-1 home defeat to Chievo, but since then Novara have picked up 4 points and their first clean sheets of the season. Their success was greeted with almost universal acclaim because Mondonico, for all his faults (and they are many) is a popular figure. He is also a real football man of a type that is becoming rarer today, and not afraid to resort to 'catennaccio' when necessary. He may or may not save Novara, but his is a heart-warming story and a ray of light in a dark period for Italian football. It also provides hope for others.

Comment by Kiel9495 2012-02-13 21:59:51

Zambia's victory in Libreville last night was a rare example of a script going exactly to plan without there even being the need for any bad guys.

The game was as gripping a 0-0 draw as you will ever see, with the play becoming more open and adventurous as the game went on, rather than being stifled by fear. There were top class performances throughout both teams, chances for either side to win it, creativity and flair battling for supremacy with rock-solid defending.

And when 120 minutes couldn't separate the two teams, we were treated to the most gripping and emotional penalty shoot-out I can ever recall seeing. From 4-4 onwards, I was convinced that Zambia would miss, but it just kept going, with even the keeper scoring one. Utterly brilliant.

There always has to be a fall-guy, and I guess it is tough on the Ivory Coast to lose without conceding a single goal in the whole tournament (can that ever have happened before?), but even the two who missed their penalties weren't villains. Kolo Toure was arguably man of the match, and Gervinho had scored the semi-final winner to get them there.

They will be making a film of it, surely, not least the bit at the end where Zambia coach Herve Renard (he already looks like a film star - he could play himself) picks up defender Musonda, injured just 8 minutes into his 100th cap on the biggest night of his football life, and carries him the length of the pitch in his arms to join in the celebrations. Hollywood stuff.

The whole spectacle was pure theatre, unutterably wonderful, and it makes me smile with sheer joy that I am a football fan.


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