MONDAY’S BIG STORIES
England plod untested along well-worn qualifying path
England are the perfect case study for overhauling international football, if only for the way they negotiate qualifying groups with such tedious ease just so they can fall flat on their biennial major-tournament faces.
The 2-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley felt like something we’d sat through a thousand times before – from the packed visiting defence to the meaningless last 20 minutes, via the atmosphere that felt more like a late-afternoon high street than an international football match.
Just as you start to question the wisdom of analysing the individual and collective contributions, though, you realise that Southgate has only these formalities against 107th-ranked inconveniences to mould his team into a battle-ready machine. These might not seem like the rigorous conditions to discover if Michael Keane is made of the right stuff for international football but, until someone finds a better way of structuring it all, this is international football.
Coleman sets off on Long road to recovery
“It’s a double break but it has been pinned up and screwed in.” Martin O’Neill’s update sounded almost breezy, but Seamus Coleman’s recovery from serious injury will be far from straightforward.
In the aftermath of Coleman’s injury, some details emerged of how team-mate Shane Long came to his immediate aid on the Aviva Stadium pitch.
Kayleagh Long, Long’s wife, revealed that her husband kept Coleman calm by calling upon some unorthodox skills. “I had a hypnotherapy birth and they taught Shane to help me to breathe through it,” she told the Sunday Independent. “He told me: ‘It all came back to me. I was just talking to Seamus, teaching him how to breathe through it.’ He remembered it all.”
Now that’s team spirit.
Chelsea given Costa injury fright
On the subject of powerless clubs watching the international break through terrified fingers, Chelsea were given something of a scare this weekend.
Top-scorer Diego Costa limped out of Spain training with a heavy ankle knock, so serious that he was immediately sent for X-rays. While the scans revealed no damage, Antonio Conte will now watch with interest (to put it mildly) to see if Costa plays any part against France on Tuesday night before he is released back to his club. With Eden Hazard carrying a calf injury and doubtful for the resumption of Premier League business this coming weekend, Conte may well have enjoyed this international interlude even less than most.
IN OTHER NEWS
Being a back-up goalkeeper must be a tricky existence. You do all the drills, all the warm-ups, and then sit there for 90 minutes each week on the off-chance that you might be called upon in an emergency.
That leaves a lot of time to think about extra-curricular activities (not a euphemism, for once) and Chelsea’s no.2 number one Asmir Begovic has taken one look at Juan Mata’s notoriously charming blog…and taken things to a new level.
Why is it weird that a Premier League footballer has his own podcast? Not sure, but let’s all have a listen and find out if our Monday morning commute needs Asmir Begovic talking about sport.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Jermain Defoe
Read the full article on eurosport.co.uk: The Warm-Up: Injuries, indifference and the international break