IT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS
Say what you like about Robbie Savage – and for the record, The Fiver hears that over the years there have been murmurs – but when he parks the alpha-male patter and concentrates on the job in hand, he can be a great co-commentator. There was ample evidence of that on Wednesday night, when his sheer childlike glee and obvious love of the game poured out of the speaker as Hungary came within six minutes of avenging the 1954 World Cup final. Excited whoops and hollers that whisked the viewer along for the ride, old-school fun the top note, and tactical analysis is overrated anyway. A decent, workable facsimile of Ally McCoist. The Robert Fleck of co-coms.
Compare and contrast with the ITV commentary of England’s game the other night, which had all the energy of a government press conference, only with less charm, culminating in a laboured pre-prepared joke about Scotland’s exit that, like the team in question, had glaring structural flaws. There go any theories you may have held about nominative determinism, because on the evidence presented at this tournament to date, nothing emitted from that particular face amounts to a hill of beans. Thank your lucky stars, then, that the BBC will be covering England’s second-round game against Germany, the result of a whirlwind final matchday in Group Eff which at various points in the evening saw England lined up to face France, Portugal, Brazil, Basingstoke Town, a celebrity XI featuring at least two former members of One Direction, and Hungary. But in the end it was Germany. Inevitable Germany. Sigh.
See, the big match is six days away. Six days that will seem like six years, which is coincidentally the same length of time it took to decide the contretemps between the two nations that a section of the English fanbase still bang on about. That long. Here begins an interminable week of Gareth Southgate’s penalty miss being shown on a constant loop, with occasional snatches of 1966 and that game in 2000 that seemed epochal at the time but nobody apart from Alan Shearer remembers any more. It’s going to really test your patience, you can be sure of it. So steel yourself and pull up a chair. We have supplies of the drink and medicinal sweeties. If we get the dose just right, we can sleep all the way through this.
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It’s just the Euros blog, which is here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m looking forward to it to be honest. There are worse matches to play than at Wembley against England” – Joshua Kimmich is ready.
In rainbows: German stadiums light up for LGBTQ+ solidarity.
Football Daily at EN 2020: here’s the latest episode.
“Something happened before the start of the Portugal v France match which I’ve never seen before. At the coin toss, French captain Hugo Lloris took it from the ref’s hand and checked both sides for a double-sided coin. I expect Lloris subsequently chose heads, which must have still been on his mind when he almost decapitated Danilo later in the match and conceded a penalty” – Steve Malone.
“To help out Robert Blanchard’s maths (yesterday’s Fiver letters), there will be exactly four teams who will be eliminated by the eventual winners in the knockout stages. And on the evidence to date, I don’t see Scotland being the only team who didn’t lose to the team who lifts the trophy. Referring to the ‘other 15 teams’, perhaps Mr Blanchard considers French training matches as competitive games?” – Alan Sharp.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Rollover.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Three Denmark fans have been infected with the Delta coronavirus variant by attending the match against Belgium, according to the country’s Agency for Patient Safety. It also says there have been 29 cases of infection in connection with three Euros matches on Danish soil.
Karim Benzema is back, impressively scoring both of France’s goals in the draw with Portugal after 46 minutes and 44 seconds, either side of half-time. “I knew as soon as I would be in the national team, the critics would come out,” he cooed. “As soon as I put my feet on the pitch I want to score and today I managed to do that. But I am training a lot. It was always like that, even when I was a little kid.”
Poland coach Paulo Sousa has blamed dodgy defending for failing to reach the last 16 after their 3-2 loss to Sweden. “We cannot concede silly goals like we have been conceding,” he sighed. “The first shot on goal, it cannot be through the goal.”
Slovakia are stewing over their early exit in the wake of that shellacking by Spain. “I am a realist,” tooted former national coach Dusan Galis. “If the quality of our league doesn’t change, there will be no interest in our players.”
And Luis Enrique is still going on about booze. “We have certainly popped that bottle of cava, therefore we are delighted, we are pleased the fans and players have had a good time. Now it’s time for us to get another bottle and see if we can pop that too.”
NON EUROS BUSINESS
The suspended vice-president and head of referees at the Haitian Football Federation has denied claims of attempting to arrange the killing of a journalist. “If you don’t want to do it, I will find someone else to do it,” Rosnick Grant is alleged to have said.
Manchester’s Big Red have offered £73m for England pine-rider Jadon Sancho. Borussia Dortmund want £75m. Where will this odyssey end?
And the state of things has resulted in EFL suits having to release two fixtures lists, owing to the threat of Derby still potentially being relegated to League One.
STILL WANT MORE?
England have been grey. England have been bloodless, and the jeopardy starts now, writes Barney Ronay.
Set pieces, Harry Kane and Covid curveballs. David Hytner pinpoints the big issues now facing England. Other than Germany.
For Portugal, Swansea legend Renato Sanches > Manchester United legend Bruno Fernandes. Andy Brassell explains.
How come Wales are pretty good at being a team? Learning the anthem, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, and other cultural lessons are a significant aspect, suggests Ben Fisher.
Here’s the latest state of play in the Golden Boot race.
And some Classic YouTube for you too.
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