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On this week’s review section we congratulate Zambia on winning the Africa Cup of Nations, while we wonder if Barcelona are in a crisis and whether Luis Suarez’ days may be numbered at Liverpool. You can listen to these and other stories on our weekly podcast and can find explanations of key vocabulary in bold below.
On Sunday, competition favourites Ivory Coast took on the plucky underdogs Zambia in what most pundits thought would be a formality. Ivory Coast were 4/7 odds to win – in a two-team sport that made them big favourites. Indeed Zambia came in to the tournament as a 40/1 bet. But this final was more than just a tale of a football giant against a minnow. The final of the African Cup of Nations was taking place in Gabon, which was the destination of the 1993 Zambian team on their way to play Senegal in a World Cup qualifier. Their plane crashed killing all on board. For Zambia, this final was for that 1993 team, a way to honour them. And that is exactly what they did by beating Ivory Coast 8-7 in a penalty shoot out. The French coach, Herve Renard, dedicated the victory to Kalusha Bwalya, the head of the Zambian FA who gave him the job, and a member of the 1993 team but luckily not on the plane because he was travelling to the match alone. What a wonderful victory. Congratulations Zambia!
Bad for Barcelona in La Liga and neutral fans everywhere as the Catalan side slumped to another loss, almost guaranteeing that Real Madrid will win the title. The loss away at Osasuna 3-2 means that the Madrid side now have a 10-point lead. Although La Liga is often seen as a two-horse race right from the beginning, it has now become a one-horse race with a third of the season to go, as it is very unlikely that Real Madrid will lose three games while Barcelona win all their remaining games. While Barca lost, Real Madrid thumped 10-man Levante 4-2, powered by a Ronaldo hatrick. The title race looks all over in La Liga.
In the ugly section this week is Luis Suarez and Liverpool Football club again. At the big North West derby in England this weekend, the Uruguayan striker, already found to have used racist language towards Patrice Evra of Manchester United by the FA, stoked the fires by refusing to shake Evra’s hand in the pre-match team line up. Instead of doing what both teams before the game said they wanted, to draw a line under the affair, Suarez’s crass behaviour guaranteed the game was played in a poisonous atmosphere. The comments of Kenny Dalglish, the Reds’ manager after the match, when his angry outburst at an interviewer included a defence of Suarez, only damaged the image of the club more. Indeed, their biggest sponsor were in talks with the Merseyside team to show their displeasure, and it seems the American owners ensured that there were swift apologies from Suarez, Dalglish and the club. Embarrassing for Liverpool fans and how long will they put up with their temperamental striker?
plucky: brave; small but courageous
a formality: a routine game; nothing special; probably an easy win (in this context)
slumped: fell; performed badly and lost
two-horse race: a title battle with only two teams capable of winning
thumped: hammered; beat easily; win by scoring a lot of goals
stoke the fires: make things work; inflame the situation
draw a line under: to end; to bring to a close; to move on
crass: lacking refinement; with no grace; lacking intelligence
angry outburst: a sudden verbal attack; angry words