The Daily Mirror’s Dave Kidd is one of many stunned by Harry Kane’s display for England against Portugal on Thursday evening. Well, not his display per se, but one particular moment.
On 35 minutes, the Tottenham striker was quite literally kicked in the head by a flying Bruno Alves, with the Portugal centre-half subsequently sent off. Kidd feels that Kane’s reaction – to quickly rise to his feet and continue playing – is actually a sign of England’s main weakness.
‘This England team really is as stereotypically English as it has ever been. You only had to look at the way Harry Kane reacted to a decapitation attempt by Bruno Alves.
‘”Just a flesh wound,” said brave Sir Harry, like the limbless Monty Python knight, as he leapt up instantly and carried on dashing down the wing.
‘In a tournament, you would have hoped Kane might have rolled around on the turf and ensured his opponent was sent off.
‘This time, he got lucky, and Italian referee Marco Guida recognised the psychopathic nature of Alves’s head-high assault and dismissed the Portugal defender anyway.
‘But somehow Kane’s reaction said a lot about an England side which during years of tournament failure has rarely looked as technically adept, positionally savvy or downright cunning as other major nations.’
That’s right: England will struggle at this summer’s European Championship because Kane did not react dramatically enough to being fouled. The Tottenham striker’s explanation – “I thought I’d try to get up for a two-v-one and try to score a goal but obviously the ref stopped it for a reason” – matters little in the world of Kidd.
Which is strange, because in December 2014, he implored then-Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to ‘show more honesty over diving’.
‘Footballers are a shameless bunch. Diving is more widespread than ever; regarded among professionals as no more disgraceful than a cynical challenge to halt a counter-attack.
‘So the only effective cure is for managers to publicly criticise, fine and even drop guilty players.
‘Most managers can whiff of hypocrisy on this issue. Sam Allardyce was critical of Ivanovic on Boxing Day, yet suggested his own player, Matt Jarvis, was too honest when he stayed on his feet and failed to win a spot-kick at Arsenal last season.
‘Referees can play their part – as Phil Dowd showed when he awarded a penalty and sent off Cardiff’s Juan Cala, despite Connor Wickham staying upright in a critical relegation six-pointer at Sunderland last spring.
‘But it would be wrong to put too much onus on referees.
‘Because referees do not cheat. Footballers do. And managers encourage them.’
As do Daily Mirror journalists, it seems.
The following is a collation of the different ways in which Alves’s red-card challenge was described by Friday’s newspapers:
‘A brutal assault’ – Neil Ashton, The Sun.
‘A high lunge’ – Sami Mokbel, Daily Mail.
‘An outrageously high challenge’, ‘extremely dangerous’ – Matt Lawton, Daily Mail.
‘Horrendous challenge’ – Phil Joyce, Daily Express.
‘A shocking kung-fu challenge’ – Mike Walters, Daily Mirror.
‘Horrendous looking kung-fu challenge – John Cross, Daily Mirror.
‘Ridiculously high flying boot’ – Phil Thomas, The Sun.
‘Bizarre kung-fu kick’ – David Woods, Daily Star.
‘Kung-fu challenge that bordered on assault’ – Henry Winter, The Times.
A veritable collection of kung-fu kicks and high challenges, certainly. But the final effort raises the bar to new heights:
‘A crazy first-half foul, unquestionably the most reckless challenge in living memory’ – Sam Wallace, Daily Telegraph.
Beautiful. Shall we settle on a brutal, outrageously high, horrendous, shocking, ridiculous, bizarre, assault-bordering kung-fu kick?
‘Wonder what Jose Mourinho made of it all? The new Manchester United boss was at Wembley to watch his countrymen take on England. His heart, of course, would have been with the Portuguese – but his head would have been keeping an eye on United’s Wayne Rooney and Chris Smalling.’
The above is from Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, the second of five things he ‘learned’ on Thursday evening. Mediawatch cannot quite work out what it is Mokbel did actually learn from this, however. Is the ‘lesson’ that Mourinho is Manchester United’s manager? That he will have been watching his future players? That he was at Wembley? That he is Portuguese?
Bored in the USA
Mokbel is not the only individual who was learning things at Wembley.
‘BRING ON THE BOSS’ reads the headline to the fourth lesson of five from Mike Walters in the Daily Mirror. ‘Part of one end was covered by a giant tarpaulin covering the stage for Bruce Springsteen’s gig here on Sunday,’ he writes.
‘At least one Boss will know what he’s doing at Wembley this week.’
At what stage does this stop being a thing? You saw a tarpaulin; you made a bad joke; you learned nothing.
Walters presumably enjoyed his day out at Wembley. Another of his lessons was that Portugal captain Nani ‘is not Cristiano Ronaldo’, and ‘Manchester United fans must miss his pointless skill and wild shooting at Old Trafford’.
The first lesson offered an insight into what was to follow: ‘If you offered Roy Hodgson’s diamond formation as an engagement ring to your partner, she would throw it back in your face.’
Agents of shield
‘I was concerned that, with no Danny Drinkwater in the squad, there would be no one to help Eric Dier protect the back four in this tournament,’ writes Martin Keown for the Daily Mail. ‘But James Milner stepped into that role last night and he and Dier proved a very effective shield.’
Tackles made by James Milner against Portugal: Zero.
Interceptions made by James Milner against Portugal: Zero.
Clearances made by James Milner against Portugal: Zero.
Shots blocked by James Milner against Portugal: Zero.
Amount of times James Milner was dispossessed by an opponent against Portugal: Three – more than any other player.
‘Very effective shields’ provided by James Milner against Portugal: One. Apparently.
On a different page
On the previous page to Keown’s views in the Mail are Sam Cunningham’s player ratings. Milner is given a five – lower than any other player.
‘Really did little to justify why he should start ahead of others when the tournament kicks off,’ writes Cunningham, who was presumably shielded from Milner’s shield.
‘Kane was a threat and showed again that he has an underrated capacity for excellent passes. One delivery for Rooney, who was clear but offside, was exceptional’ – Riath Al-Samarrai, Daily Mail.
‘It was a nice ball Kane delivered from the right for Rooney’ – Matt Lawton, Daily Mail.
‘Nice’ is one thing, but ‘excellent’ and ‘exceptional’? As stated, the pass in question from Kane to Rooney was made with the captain in an offside position. The Tottenham striker declined the far better option of passing to an onrushing Kyle Walker, and waited too long before playing the ball to an offside player. Exceptional.
‘Manchester United want Jose Mourinho to stay for the long haul and build a dynasty’ – Jamie Jackson, The Guardian, June 3, 2016.
Good luck, Jose. Hopefully it goes better than your last one…
‘Jose Mourinho’s 10-year plan for a Chelsea dynasty’ – Colin Mafham, Daily Express, April 12, 2015.
‘Things have changed at the club where [Roberto] Martinez and, before him, David Moyes did such a magnificent job of managing a limited, but well-planned budget,’ writes David Maddock in the Daily Mirror.
Martinez spent just under £100million in three seasons at Everton after being appointed manager in summer 2013. He took the club from sixth to two consecutive 11th-placed finishes. The £13.5m purchase of one Oumar Niasse – the club’s third-most expensive player ever, who recorded no goals or assists in 142 Premier League minutes last season – can hardly be described as being made on a ‘limited’ or ‘well-planned budget’.
The Metro‘s website has a new favourite word. See if you can work it out.
‘West Brom announce classy Hillsborough tribute ahead of Liverpool clash’ – May 13.
‘Wenger proves he’s the nicest bloke in football with classy letter to Chelsea fan’ – May 13.
‘Roberto Martinez releases classy statement after Everton sacking’ – May 15.
‘Deal: Classy defender signs new contract with Arsenal’ – May 19.
‘Liverpool to offer classy midfielder improved deal after Barcelona interest’ – May 28.
‘Manchester United’s classy new home kit ‘leaked’ online’ – June 3.
Who Googles ‘classy’?
Headline of the day
‘Hodgson’s VaRooKa’ makes England limp into Euros opener’ – Matt Hughes, The Times.
Recommended reading of the day
James Horncastle on Antonio Conte and Italy.
Ewan McKenna on a Colombia reborn.
Emanuel Rosu on Vlad Chiriches’ resurgence.