Paper Round: England plan for penalties

England's Euro 2012 quarter-final against Italy is still more than three days away, but the papers are already in full-on preview mode - even if manager Roy Hodgson isn't.


The Independent quotes Hodgson admitting that he hadn't yet watched Italy play (as of Wednesday morning, at least). He instead decided to watch Spain against Croatia on Monday night, assuming that if England would be denied top spot in the group by France.

Still, the preparation has now started in earnest with the Daily Telegraph leading its coverage on the fact that Hodgson is throwing his men into penalty shoot-out training. Having gone out of three World Cups and two European Championships on spot kicks in the last 22 years, that's not a bad idea. "It's because we've lost important matches on penalties so it's going to be that way. When you are working with the England national team, the past is always going to weigh heavily," explained Hodgson.

Hopefully it won't get that far, however, and if The Sun's front page is right then we've a mystery ingredient that will be the key to continued English success at the Euros: hair gel. The paper's front page (seriously) is entirely given over to the headline "Weapon of match destruction" alongside a picture of a £2.65 tube of Shockwaves spray-on hair gel. "Three Lions hairos believe they're set for success after Wayne Rooney scored while wearing the lucky gunk... full story - pages 4, 5, 6 & 7," the story reads. And sure enough, pages four and five genuinely hold a double-page spread talking about the fact that Rooney, Andy Carroll and, er, Jordan Henderson all use the gel.

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Speaking of England's unlikely secret weapons, our chances of benefiting from another dodgy decision by a match official have been trimmed slightly. The Independent reports that the Hungarian fifth official who made the blunder that denied Ukraine a goal has been sent home. Istvan Vad, and indeed the entire Hungarian contingent of officials, have been told their services are no longer required.

The Guardian reports that UEFA are sticking by their policy that five match officials are better than a goal-line technology system, despite having apparently conceded that a goal should have been awarded. We're not sure how that concession fits in with the clear offside that was missed at the beginning of Ukraine's scoring move, however.

The Daily Mirror's back page runs with some of the Italian mind games that have already started, with Italy star Daniele de Rossi's praise for former England coach Fabio Capello prompting the headline: "You've got the wrong boss!"

De Rossi called Capello (who brought him through as a youngster at Roma) "extra special"; he also praised Steven Gerrard as "my idol for the last 10 years... the ultimate midfielder". These quotes prompt The Sun's Steven Howard to remember Alex Ferguson's cautionary words a few years ago: "When an Italian tells you it's pasta, check under the sauce."

Still, there's no doubt that everyone's enjoying the football, and the Guardian claims that the footballing pyrotechnics on view in Poland and Ukraine have "already elevated the tournament to classic status" - a view also expressed by our own man at Euro 2012, Tom Adams, yesterday (follow the link to read that article).

Over on the continent the Italian press focuses on the chance for Mario Balotelli to come of age against England: "Part adored, part vilified, Balotelli divides. But (for now) he does not rule," is Gazzetta's headline, which talks about how local children in Poland and Ukraine idolise the volatile striker for his antics in the Premier League.

La Repubblica, by contrast, focuses on Wayne Rooney, "il campione della 'working class'" as the paper calls him. "The British working class has everything: heart, passion and above all beer," the piece continues, praising the striker for his genius while also lamenting that he never reached the same level as Lionel Messi, something which seemed likely two or three years ago, and finishing off saying that, "it'll be a pleasure to play against him."

In other news, the Guardian reports that Andre Villas-Boas's impending appointment as new manager of Tottenham might be derailed. Spurs chief Daniel Levy has apparently been talking to other candidates despite trying to wrap up a deal with the Portuguese boss, and AVB is "angry" that the north London club aren't focusing solely on him.

The Daily Mail reports that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has set aside £55 million to try and sign David Silva from Manchester City, with Gonzalo Higuain being offered as a makeweight.

And finally, in yet another amazing twist to the Rangers saga, it seems that the Glasgow giant could end its woes by moving to the English league. The Daily Mirror reports that Charles Green is looking to buy a struggling English lower league club and take their spot in the football league; League One outfit Bury is the early favourite for the shock move. Rangers would then seek to try and climb into the Premier League. It's a horrifying thought for fans of Bury, and for the rest of Scottish football for that matter, but it's hard to deny that it's an intriguing idea.

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