WHAT? WHO? HOW? WHY?
The Fiver finds itself having to look up many things these days – what day it is, where it’s parked the car, what day is bath day – a list which has been added to now by “how’s everyone doing in the qualifiers for Human Rights World Cup?” Ah yeah, the Qatar 2022 qualifiers: remember them? Some games happened back in the spring, about which no one can remember virtually anything, what with the excitement and drama of Euro Not 2020 and, most importantly, the frenzied wedge exchanges and Mr 15% wheeler-dealing around ageing stars as transfer deadline day came and went.
Still, at least a break from the frenzied avarice and grubby deal-making of top-level club football could mean that the headlines might not be about Him for a few days. But what’s this? A lazy googling reminds us that CR7 is set to break the international goalscoring record if he manages to pop one in for Portugal against Republic O’Ireland this evening. So those who might want the top stories to be about someone else are investing their hopes heavily in John Egan, Shane Duffy, Dara O’Shea and others having barnstormers this evening.
And O’Ireland are not in the rudest of health either, having followed a decent performance in defeat to Serbia in their opening qualifier with an embarrassing home humbling by Luxembourg. With only one win in 13 since taking over, boss Stephen Kenny is under pressure, particularly from those who think a nation’s deep-rooted infrastructural and administrative football failings can be solved by ruthlessly hoying managers through the door marked Do One at regular intervals, or who think Roy Keane’s swears and stares might fix everything.
Kenny wants his side to go for it on the Algarve anyway. “We can’t afford to defend for 90 minutes. It’s not the way we’re set up to do that, it’s not our intention,” he parped about an O’Ireland side who scored the princely sum of three goals in his first 10 games. “We have to carry an attacking threat. Portugal have too much quality to sit back for 90 minutes, it’s not workable. We have to have belief in ourselves to carry an attacking threat, and that’s certainly our ambition.” Whatever, O’Ireland face a tough job keeping Him, and lazy headline writers (“what lazy headline writers?” – Fiver Ed), at bay this evening. Good luck guys, we’re all counting on you.
Elsewhere, Shortbread McFiver could also face a testing evening as a Covid-ravaged Scotland visit EN2020 semi-finalists Denmark and France host Bosnia & Herzegovina where the transfer window’s Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappé might do something to restore France’s lustre after their summer went all wrong, or perhaps the last few days’ manic activity has taken it all out of them. As it has The Fiver. Now where did we put our last clean pair of socks?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Guys, I didn’t faint and I’m in very good health,” Pele sparks relief by taking to Twitter following reports of a health scare.
“In the interests of accuracy, Steve Thomas [yesterday’s Fiver letters], I’ve been reading the purportedly satirical Fiver for way too many years, and I assure you that countless chances have been passed up to put the boot into Manchester United. Not just slight ones either. Gilt-edged, pachyderm-shaped chances visible from afar. Chances that come cow’s ar$e shaped and equipped with a banjo. Chances festooned with neon signs reading ‘Moss from the IT crowd could probably riff on this’ and ‘Eff me they even thought of that on Fighting Talk’. Chances, say, that you would expect to be figuratively taken even if the Fiver were written by Garry Birtles, subbed by Bebe and sent out by Alexis Sanchez. When it comes to the issue of the risibility of the big clubs, I always look to fans such as yourself, if that assures you” – Jon Millard.
“I have to say that Steve Thomas’s rant about Barry Glendenning’s tea-timely email was well worth the prizeless letter o’ the day. Fight satire with satire, I say. In a similar vein I suggest United, now that the empire has been reunited with its prince, aka ‘the ageing Portuguese show pony’, licenses those select journalists and organisations allowed to report on all matters pertaining to said unimpeachable empire, as in the blessed days of Lord Ferg. Those hacks who fail to comply with licensing requirements could be sent to News Corp for re-education” – Ian Tasker.
“As a fan of 55 years standing, I’d just say that Steve Thomas taking a slight opportunity to put the boot into my favourite sometimes-quite-amusing tea-timely football newsletter casts him as a humourless disgrace among United supporters. His bitterness disappoints me. I would have to add though Fiver, that it is a shame that you didn’t find a moment to celebrate another important return to Old Trafford” – Steve Allen.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Jon Millard.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Harry Kane says he has no regrets over trying to force a move from Spurs and is confident this summer’s transfer saga has not tarnished his reputation. “I was calm with the situation,” he sobbed uncontrollably. “It was between me and the club.”
Arsenal midfielder Kim Little, one of Scotland Women’s all-time greats, has retired from international football after winning 140 caps for her country.
Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka has pleaded guilty to driving while disqualified, without a licence and without insurance. The right-back was given unconditional bail until later in the month.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke insists he won’t use Covid withdrawals as an excuse despite having only 16 players available for the World Cup qualifier against Denmark.
Everton have signed Salomón Rondón on a free transfer from the Chinese Super League side Dalian Pro to reunite the centre forward with Rafael Benitezzzzzzzzzzz …
STILL WANT MORE?
Wake up and make sense of the transfer window, if that’s possible, with our definitive verdict on how each Premier League club fared, while Who Scored’s Ben McAleer picks the best last-minute trolley-dashes in the English top flight. And Ed Aarons looks at the significance of the Premier League’s muscle-flexing amid uncertainty and weakness elsewhere.
Ings and Mings. Bright and Wright. Hoddle and Waddle. Er, Buzsaky and Mackie. This week’s Knowledge spotlights great rhyming-named goal creating duos.
Patrick Bamford hopes his England call-up can dispel some myths about him being all over-privileged and posh, writes Andy Hunter.
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