Written in the sky

Zambia coach Herve Renard has described his side’s unexpected African Cup of Nations triumph as ‘written in the sky’.

The Southern African side beat favourites Ivory Coast 8-7 in a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw to win the Cup for the first time.

More poignantly, the final took place in Libraville, Gabon, scene of the plane crash that killed 25 Zambian players and officials heading to a World Cup qualifying match in 1993.

“We know what we wanted to honour this evening, it was a sign of destiny, written in the sky, there was a force with us. I think God has helped us and given us strength,” Renard told a post-final press conference.

“I told them if we got to the final we would play in Gabon where the plane crashed and our first match was against Senegal, where the team was headed to play. There was a special significance in that.”

Elephants grounded

The final was a huge anti-climax for the heavily favoured Ivory Cost side who were looking to win the tournament for the first time since 1992.

The Elephants had the opportunity to win the match in normal time only for captain Didier Drogba to blaze a second half penalty way over the bar.

Coach Francois Zahoui said: “The disappointment is enormous and it’s sadness which is the overwhelming sensation.

“We are very upset tonight. I was anticipating a difficult game, I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

“We didn’t start well but we had occasions like the penalty to kill off the game.

Asked if this was the end of Didier Drogba’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ Zahoui said: “Off the cuff we can’t make a decision like that. The players produced a lot of effort, they gave their all.”

As tarnished ‘Golden Generations’ go, only England’s recent vintage can match the current Ivorians when it comes to underachievement.

Out with the old, in with the old

But wait, what’s this? It appears that Harry Redknapp, England’s manager-in-waiting, is rather keen on reassembling the Pyrite Generation for one last shot at glory.

Quizzed at the weekend about the possibility of someone like Paul Scholes being recalled to England colours, Redknapp was enthusiastic. Scholes made a shock return to Manchester United last month, just months after hanging up his boots for good.

“Let’s be honest, you would love to have Paul Scholes in the Euros this year,” he said. “He’d be in your team, he’s that good. Whoever’s there would love to take him, I’m sure. You’d love him to play. He plays like the Spaniards, like Xavi [Hernández] or [Andrés] Iniesta. He does not give the ball away.”

Scholes, lest we forget, retired from international football eight years ago to concentrate on his club career. Eight months ago, he retired from all football to concentrate on his retirement. He is 37-years-old.

No wonder David Beckham carries on playing. Six months younger than Scholes, Redknapp will probably build his 2014 World Cup team around him.

The Spurs boss was equally effusive about the Gerrard-Lampard paradox, otherwise known as the square pegs in a round hole midfield combination.

“You need men in your side,” Redknapp added, which will come as a relief to those who feared that Redknapp might break with tradition by selecting female players.

“You need characters if you are going to win anything. Frank (Lampard) is still a top player,” said Redknapp of a player, who coincidentally is his nephew.

“You write Frank off at your peril. He’s still a top player in my opinion. Stevie Gerrard is still a top-class player. We have got some good players in our midfield.”

Well, persevering with the pair has worked so well for the past ten years, why not give it another go.

Miss of the day

Amateur astronomers who witnessed a cosmic object orbiting the earth last night, need not worry that they may have spotted a hitherto undiscovered asteroid hurtling towards the planet.

In fact, they have just seen this effort from Didier Drogba re-entering the stratosphere.

Goal of the day

Described by his manager Jose Mourinho, as “incredible, fantastic”, Cristiano Ronaldo’s dipping volley was the 4000th league goal scored by Real Madrid at the Bernabeu since it opened in 1947.

Better late than never

You wait four months for Liverpool to issue an apology and then three come along at once.

First, Luis Suarez says sorry for refusing to shake hands with Manchester United’s Patrice Evra prior to Saturday’s highly-charged Premier League encounter. Then it was the turn of manager Kenny Dalglish to issue an apology for his behaviour in a TV interview immediately after the game. Finally, Liverpool’s managing director, Ian Ayre, issued an apology for the conduct of Suarez, claiming he had let both Dalglish and the club down.

The fingerprints of the club’s owners were all over the sudden volte-face by Liverpool, with suggestions that a damning piece in the New York Times had alerted them to the harm being done to their global reputation.

BBC Sport was told that the apologies “contained the input” of the club’s American owners, Fenway Sports Group.

“No-one is more important than the club. Apologies were necessary,” said a senior source at Fenway.

Which will come as news to both Suarez and Dalglish.

Mancini-Tevez olive branch

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists he will be willing to shake Carlos Tevez’s hand. Not a Luis Suarez-style handshake either, but a proper one signalling an end to the rift between player and club

Mancini said: “I think it is a bad moment to talk about shaking hands, but yes. I always forgive people, every time.

“It’s up to him. Carlos knows everything. We are here, we didn’t change city in these three months, so we are here and Carlos knows this.

“Carlos is a City player. For three months we have been expecting him back.

“I am there, Carlos knows. I spoke to him one week after Munich, Carlos knows everything. I can’t say any more.

“Would I like him to apologise? This is normal I think. And after, Carlos can train and Carlos can play if his condition is good.”

Well, if Luis Suarez can find it within himself to apologise, then surely it’s not beyond Tevez.

Wolves slay McCarthy

Premier League outfit Wolves have sacked boss Mick McCarthy following Sunday’s 5-1 home thrashing by Black Country rivals West Brom.

Given recent form, the mood among supporters and their perilous league position, the decision to dispense with McCarthy is not exactly a bolt from the blue.

Wolves only clung onto their place amongst the elite at the end of last year thanks to a goal against Blackburn with three minutes to go on the final day of the season and on current form, a similar Houdiniesque escape will be required.

In a statement on their website, the club said it was “a difficult decision to terminate Mick’s contract” but that assistant Terry Connor would take charge of training until a new manager is appointed.

“The board took the difficult decision after a run of form which has seen Wolves pick up 14 points in the last 22 league games,” read a club statement.

McCarthy seemed to sense the writing was on the wall when he spoke to the press after Sunday’s defeat.

“I would think it was one of the most disappointing afternoons of my career,” he said.I” apologise for the performance and I’ve never done that before. But the way we capitulated in the last half-hour is not associated with my teams. I always feel I’m the right person to do it. I’ve not got a message for the fans. I’ve apologised. That is all I can do. That’s how badly I feel about it.”

Quote of the day

“He has played away some of his recognition. He is selfish like so many others. His reaction alone to when he has a good effort or scores a goal; he does not run towards the player who set him up to score but instead he runs towards his family in the stands. He lets the team run after him.”

Bayern Munich great Franz Beckenbauer on Dutch winger Arjen Robben.


The issue of disaffected players in Germany is not confined to Bayern, with Cologne striker Lukas Podolski complaining that the club have not built a side around him like they promised.

Speaking to Bild am Sonntag, Podolski criticised his home-town club, saying: “I was told that a team would be built around me so that we could establish ourselves first in the top eight and then in the top six.”

Cologne general manager Claus Horstmann says Podolski, who missed Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Hamburg through injury, will be fined for his unauthorised comments.

“Of course such a high-profile player has every right to speak out publicly, but we are surprised about the timing and the content of an interview on the day in which we had a very important game against Hamburg,” he said.

“Remarks about the club must always be authorised by the club. There is no place in the world for a player, who is injured, who is not in the squad and who is always demanding calm, to give such an interview.”

I wonder who he could mean?