After Monday’s ridiculousness, today brings England v Germany. Get your thoughts in to email@example.com in time for the afternoon mailbox…
In’t football brilliant!
The next time someone says that international football is boring, or of a lower standard, compared to the Super-Mega Premier League of Epicness, I suggest you politely point them in the direction of yesterday evening.
Two matches which contained pretty much everything you love to see in football, and sport in general. There was some great tactical match-ups, stunning goals, fabulous shout-out-loud late comebacks and also a comical own goal and Sissoko putting a ball into orbit!
And because it wasn’t Rich Club 1 vs. Rich Club 2, a lot of people were emotionally invested in it. The car horns beeping here (Switzerland) at midnight was great to hear. Probably less to for the French citizens just over the border though! But that is the point, whole countries were watching and willing and enjoying. And it didn’t need weeks of hype, or journalists trying to create rifts based on mundane press conference comments.
When people complain that international breaks are boring, they are really saying that they are not ‘football’ fans, rather just fans of the PL or of one club and that is it. Now of course there are some weak teams in world football, and so (especially for the Euros) qualification is almost without jeopardy for many of the stronger teams. But the PL is often without jeopardy. Norwich play Liverpool and Man City in their first two games next season. In terms of the likelihood of seeing a shock, how is that any different from England playing against Albania?
International Tournaments are what brings people together, and often provide bookmarks to your life, especially when growing up. Yet another relentless season of PL football in which the same few teams always win doesn’t have that.
Here’s hoping for something special tonight, and for the rest of the Euros.
Come on England, and Hopp Schwiiz!
…Having been a huge football fan since as long as I can remember, I’ve slowly felt myself losing interest the last two years and especially this last season. No fans, super league fiasco, the overriding dread of VAR.
This tournament and today in particular has made me love it again. Just superb in every way.
…I f*cking love football
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Au revior, France
Well, what a day and what a tournament…
On my break at work writing this up quick so I apologize if this is not the most articulate piece of writing to ever grace this site.
Deschamps will rightly be lambasted after the defeat today. When the starting 11 was released with 3 CBs I had a bad feeling.
The whole tournament he has been described as “pragmatic”, but he’s really just a bit of a puss isn’t he. Obviously he won the World Cup last time around so I will forever be grateful for that, but with the players in the squad he was holding them back.
Starting with a brand new formation and bringing in Lenglet at the heart of the defense was a recipe for disaster. I get that there were injuries but why switch up the entire system? Just keep Rabiot at LB and plug Tolisso into the 3rd midfield spot and we would have been fine. Hell, even Sissoko would have been better. Lenglet has barely featured and despite out more “defensive” approach the defense was abysmal in the first half. The players had no idea what they were doing and Lenglet got absolutely bullied for the opener.
But where Deschamps made the biggest mistake actually preceded the tournament: when he brought back Benzema. Now I will preface by saying I am absolutely biased against Benzema. Those who watched the French team during his first stint know he never performed for the national team and he just doesn’t seem to give a sh*t and his bad attitude poisons the rest of the team. I acknowledge at Madrid he is a star and on paper would improve the team, but only the “fans” who never watched him play for France were calling for him to come back.
Now I can already here people shouting “but he scored 4 goals”. And yes, credit where credit is due. But the 1st goal was a pen and honestly him usurping the pen taker role I think is emblematic of the egotistical attitude he brings to the team. The second against Portugal was a great finish, and the first tonight was a brilliant move so I will give him that, but the last goal was just a tap in. And beyond maybe 4 minutes of play time where he contributed those goals he did absolutely nothing. He barely even runs out there. And his cocky attitude seems to have rubbed off on the entire team over the course of the tournament. It’s like it was a competition to see who could give the least amount of effort but still win the game. At least with Giroud in 2018 you knew he would give everything for the team. We didn’t need Benzema and 2018 and we clearly haven’t done better with him back, so I hope this is the last we see of him.
Side note for Mbappe. Not his best tournament, and unfortunate for the penalty miss, but he will be back in Qatar better than ever. Pogba was also playing like the player of the tournament. Man Utd really need a Kante to liberate him. Ndidi anyone?
Here’s to me hoping Deschamps “retires”, and Zidane leads us to our 3rd star. Although I guess he likes Benzema too. F*ck me.
Love to hear some other thoughts.
On a separate note how electric was Kingsley Coman once he came on? In my mind he would be the perfect replacement once Salah / Mane inevitably leave for Spain.
…This one’s on Deschamps. Starting the team in a 352 was seriously naïve, even if injuries to our key wing backs suggested a change in formation was necessary to get the best players at hand on the pitch. Rabiot was a decent makeshift left back but he’s no winger. Similarly, throwing in Lenglet in the middle of an established partnership was always going to create issues. I’m not sure that Laporte would have done a much better job had he been selected ahead of Lenglet – and not switched allegiance. That first half was as bad as I’ve seen us – no urgency, no cohesion, and no idea on how to improve.
To his credit, Deschamps corrected his mistake and reverted to the familiar 4 3 3 after HT. The next 15min were still far from perfect, rather a continuation and ended with us needing Lloris to save a penalty for the first time in 10 years or so, before Benzema grabbed back control of the game. He was actually quite decent after a difficult first couple of games, which was a pleasant surprise – sure, he’s been brilliant at Madrid over the past few years, but I doubted he’d be able to blend well with the rest of the France world championship winning squad. I’d wager we were then granted the few glimpses of what could have been achieved with him leading this forward line. We were then at 3 1 and apparently cruising. Up until we yet again chilled and conceded another avoidable goal.
As a side point, I’m now convinced that we traded our well organised defence for our glitzy forward line. What works in FIFA video games often doesn’t in real life – who knew? Seriously though, go back over the 6 goals conceded this tournament by France and you’ll find a defensive mistake in each of them. No 50 50 where a defender is out jumped or out muscled, no shimmy sending a keeper the wrong way, just plain mistakes. You wouldn’t believe our coach is the same man that learned his trade in 90s Calcio and has been criticised as priorising results over style.
Unfortunately, Deschamps made another critical mistake at that point : bringing on Sissoko for Griezman. I still don’t understand why managers do this. Taking on a forward for a midfielder may boost the number of men you have available in midfield, but it requires a change in formation. In this instance, a second switch after that from midfield 5 debacle of the first half. To do this for the last 3 minutes of a game just as your opponents have halved their deficit and when they have nothing left to lose is just asking for trouble. I should mention it isn’t the first time Deschamps has done this “forward for Sissoko” sub and it had always required a period of adjustment of varying length. Cue 90th min equaliser thanks to a lack of tracking by the midfield (and a back 4 shying away)
Coming back to Benzema, why Deschamps did not bother to pick a player who was always going to walk in his starting 11 (as great as Giroud has been) earlier than immediately before the tournament and for the first time in 5 years is baffling, all the more considering he had built his entire mantra on the importance of managing the group. Giroud was clearly not happy with this, and there has at times been an evident lack of wider support for one another in this squad.
While on squad selection : don’t take players that you won’t play. What’s the point of taking a right back, Dubois, if you won’t sub him on when the man in his position on the starting 11 gets concussed not play him in the following game, instead picking a rookie kid out of position ?
Final points on a couple of key players. This was everything Pogba is about. Absolutely incredible talented, fantastic vision, great execution, but every now and again, will just lose his focus. That goal was sublime. And I wouldn’t care for the 3 different goal celebrations for the one goal if, to me (grumpy old man alert) , it didn’t indicate a propensity to not always be focused on what matters during a game. He never, ever should have lost that ball at the 90th min and should have realised that at that point in the game it was his responsibility to immediately get it back, not half plead with the ref.
And last but not least: seems like we’ve finally found Kante’s limit. All it took was for him to play an inhumane number of games that would have knackered most players a long time ago. He was bang average for this game. And I may be wrong, but I think he stopped his run on the equaliser after Pogba lost the ball. The man needs a break, which frankly is fair enough. I just wish he’d lasted another 4 games.
Watching France this tournament and reading the Monday mailboxes it really boggles the mind that people have got nothing better to do than sh*t all over Pogba. I mean, really what does he have to do to shut up all the haters? At this point I’m pretty sure that, if he was suddenly and magically eligible to play for San Marino, drag them to World Cup and Euro glory, banging in hat-tricks in every match along the way, dancing around players like Messi does, defending like an in-their-prime Cannavaro, a certain segment of fans would still be lining up to piss on his parade.
I don’t need an inquest into why this is – the football media in the UK is toxic and by and large racist. Of course, they can’t just come out and say it bothers them that there is a wildly talented, successful black footballer, who happens to be Muslim. It’s dressed up as being “not focused enough on football”, “distracted with endless haircuts”, or that he’s “poisonous to the dressing room”. Pogba is hardly the first player signed for big money that has underperformed for Man Utd or any other club for that matter. Torres went to Chelsea for big money and was much worse and seemed to elicit pity rather than abuse. John Stones went to City for a lot and hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations and it’s taken until this last season and Ruben Dias for him to look like a defender. No one is shitting on Hazard for having underperformed in a very unsettled start to his Real Madrid career. All three examples are white. The difference in conversation around Pogba, Sterling and Rashford speaks for itself. I don’t even blame the average punter who just reads and regurgitates what Custis or whatever other dinosaur in the Sun/Mail/whatever writes, media have been exploiting this for a long time, whether it’s that c*nt Boris Johnson lying about bendy bananas, PC gone mad or “you can’t say anything these days”. I just wish they’d stop regurgitating and keep their hate to themselves.
I don’t dispute that Pobga has underperformed at Man Utd. Given that in the entire post-Fergie era, Man Utd have won an FA Cup, a League Cup and Europa League, I’d say that the entire club has underperformed. One Pogba is not going to change that. Not even a Fernandes, a Cavani and a Pogba could change that. I’m going to say until we replace OGS and hire a manager with a bit of tactical acumen and a plan beyond “hit them on the counter” we’re doomed to underperform. And the point I’m making is that one player doesn’t make a team. Messi at Barcelona last season proves that. Robert Lewandowski this tournament proves that.
So Pogba isn’t a glass cannon or a win more card. He’s a human, who plays football, in a team. He gets injured like other people. He gets pissed off with his mates when he tees them up and they don’t score – like you could see with Lukaku. He probably gets frustrated that Fred and the defence are liabilities and undo a lot of the attack’s success with shit defending. If he’s unhappy, he probably feels like he’s got another 6-8 good years of football in him and he actually wants to win trophies rather than stick with a dysfunctional club that can’t get its act together, that promised him success and failed to deliver, that continues to employ a manager that no other team in the PL would hire, that perennially fails to address transfer priorities. A club whose fans continue to shit on him, question his commitment to the club, doubt his professionalism and desire to win. Give Pogba the platform, with the team mates and the setup up to ensure success and he shines. You just need to look at his performances for France or Juve to see that. Similarly Lukaku has shone at Inter with the right team mates, a better set up and being utilised better by a better manager.
And to address the whole “playing up for the shop window” bollox – he’s eligible for a free transfer next summer. He doesn’t have to play up to anything – any club that knows anything about football will be sending in offers to sign him on a free. You’d have to be absolutely blinkered with hate and ignorance to think otherwise.
Obviously I doubt this email is going to change anyone’s minds. I don’t really care at this point. I’m just going to watch that goal he scored tonight on repeat and marvel.
The dawn of the “Mbappe the fraud” discourse…
Amongst all the brilliant insanity of yesterday’s Euro matches, I hope that the sheer magic of Karim Benzema’s first goal is not forgotten. That first touch is ridiculous, sublime, genius. The level of technical skill is matched only by the necessity for it, the instinctive chop to pull the ball back into his gravitational orbit was the only possible thing he could have done. I’ve never seen a touch quite like it, I’ve watched the replay some 20 times today, and I feel like a giddy child again.
PS- The PL could learn a thing or two about VAR from this tournament, it’s been hugely refreshing to not have every single game marred by controversy. In fact it makes one wonder if the PL is in fact manufacturing the drama…
…The sounds that Ally McCoist made for Benzema’s touch and Pogba’s goals were just outstanding, and vaguely arousing. Filth, absolute filth.
Jon (actually got goosebumps at Pogba’s goal), Lincoln
My wife is Belgian. Safe to say there was not much sympathy with France last night.
I thought the saddest thing to see was Mbappe walking alone towards the tunnel. One player touched his hand, his manager gave him a pat.
First of all, no matter how big a star he is, why do you let a 22-year old, who has pulled up earlier in the game and who hasn’t yet scored at the tournament take the last kick?
And secondly, we are used to seeing the player ‘costing’ his country their place being consoled by coaches and players alike. None of that it seemed from this France team. Sad to see.
Andreas (this tournament is slowly becoming interesting) Brussels
The mysterious Thomas Lemar
Something bothers me everytime I watch France. Thomas Lemar, who is he, what does he do. Why is he always there but never plays. Is there any evidence that this guy is a real footballer. Why does Deschamps think he’s always good enough to make the squad but never good enough to actually play. It’s a real head scratcher, even Sissoko plays ffs! It doesnt get any less ridiculous when you see the list of players Deschamps left out, the likes of Fekir, Aouar, Camavinga etc.
Why did the notoriously parsimonious Arsene Wenger lodge a monstrous £90m bid for him all those years ago? And having done the square root of absolute f*ck all since, why are certain clubs willing to take him off Atleti’s hands for £50m???!
Hope, Nigeria (Switzerland just scored)
In response to those questioning the difference in performances of Pogba and Fernandes for their respective countries and Man United………where the hell has this Granit Xhaka been since he signed for Arsenal?
Liam (All the Swiss will have their hairdyed tomorrow)
Emma Hayes the brilliant manager of the virtually unbeatable Chelsea women team has been the best co commentator by a verbal mile with the great Ally McCoist next.
Her supporting comments during the Crotia and Spain match was brilliant
No nasty comments
Just deep football knowledge expressed in a clever understandable manner which makes sense and everyone can get
However, football need her to stay as a manager.
We also need the pundits to listen to what Emma is talking about the game…and learn from it
Tony Laforce, Hackney, London
Approaching the gates of Mordor
Wow, a couple of fantastic matches today in the Euros, a bit of Deja vu 3-1 to 3-3 in both. I must confess I expected Spain and France to absolutely stroll their last 16 ties.
The tournament is definitely “opening up” but at the same time we need to appreciate that the “lesser” teams have gone through on merit, this isn’t a tournament that has accommodated reputation so far.
So facing the gates of Mordor tomorrow (old enemy, Herrs, Wars, historical bollocks) we should go for the unexpected assault through the tunnels on the wings behind their marauding full backs whilst the eye of Low is staring at the apparent frailty of Rice and Philips to distract them.
Saka and Sterling will creep through their defences to propose a couple of fantastic trade deals whilst Kane will benefit from Rashford feeding the GOAT in injury time.
Brian (coincidentally 1 hr into Return of the King and therefore mixed analogies) England
…Can England beat Germany? Yes.
Will England beat Germany? Maybe.
Why the uncertainty? Because Southgate refuses to learn obvious lessons and while his loyalty might be honourable at least to those players, it may cost us.
Kane has been abject. Sterling pretty abject but gotten away with it because he has done two good things in three games.
Thing is, the last game was the chance to test out the unused options and he refused. So let’s just hope we see some game changing subs as that Germany side is dangerous and talented in key areas.
Give Foden and Grealish the ball, make Kane actually be a striker who sniffs for chances around the box, let Sterling pick up an injury just before the match. Just don’t let it go to pens.
Sorry, that’s as positive as I can be.
Leave the goals to other nations
Why do we need to worry about England playing exciting football, when we can quench our thirst for goals watching the other teams play, and just focus on winning 1-0 and getting through???
Chris Hardy (these knockouts are already ludicrous)