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Like waking up on Christmas Day
Here it is. Today is the day. Scotland v England, at Wembley in the Euros. And I am far more excited than a 37 year old man should be.
Even since the hosting format was announced, I’ve been thinking about this possibility. Knowing that if Scotland and England both qualified, we would be in the same group. Then, after that glorious night against Serbia, it came to be. Scotland are playing England in a major tournament.
We’re massive underdogs, of course we are. Who in the Scotland team even gets in the England squad, let alone team? Robertson would. Tierney has a good claim. Would they get in the first XI? Again, Robertson might but who knows? Some would pick him, other would go for Chillwell or even Trippier. The rest of the Scotland squad, nowhere near. There are probably 20 better English strikers than Che Adams and the English bench has attacking quality that we can only dream of.
But it’s doesn’t matter. Because right now, before the game kicks off, anything is possible. That’s why we love football. In football Senegal can beat France. North Macedonia can beat Germany. Wigan can beat Man City and Greece can win the Euros. Football allows you to dream in a way that some sports simply don’t. Because the underdog always has a chance.
If we lose, then so be it. As long as we play our best, we can walk away with our heads held high. But to take a point, or even a shock win? That would be a story to bore my son with for years and years.
Friday night I’ll be in the pub with a mix of Scottish and English mates. We’ll joke, laugh and make bold claims about how we’re going to absolutely batter the opposition. It will be fantastic. In some ways the build up and the anticipation will be better than the match itself. Unless we win of course. Then I’m not sure I’ll actually be able to cope.
So enjoy the build up. Enjoy the match. Because if you can’t get excited for Scotland v England, do you even like football?
Mike, LFC, London
What is Benitez bringing?
Love the drama about Benitez going to Everton. Love Keys and Gray throwing the toys out the pram like someone has decided to put down the family dog. Some prime ‘this means more’ nonsense.
Fair play if, as an Evertonian, you don’t want a manager who has managed Liverpool coming to your club. I reckon the partisanship there is probably the strongest in English football (Spurs fans on the whole got behind Graham eventually from what I understand). Maybe only Celtic-Rangers is more charged.
What I do question though is whether Benitez is a good selection for Everton, and what it means by his decision (other than being close to his family in Merseyside, which is obviously also a legit reason).
Because he does have an air now of being the ‘calm influence’ in chaotic situations. The adult in the room. The fixer of messy situations. Sometimes even situations he somewhat contributes to. A low-key messy bench who loves drama.
And maybe that distracts to from the feeling that maybe as a coach/tactician, he’s of a previous generation. For Newcastle, he coached some woeful, uninspired stuff. He drove off talents like Toney and Armstrong with safety-first, no youth decisions. Which fine, horses for courses, this was the trainwreck that is Ashley’s Newcastle. But is he your ‘build a club for the future’ guy? Your ‘play the beautiful game’ guy? What is Benitez offering now except stability?
So yeh, I think aside from the drama, I’m not certain actually he’s the guy as a manager either. I think it’s a weird choice for more than just the Liverpool connection.
England are the new Ireland
As an Irishman who has watched the modern evolution of Irish international football, I can kind of actually see eye to eye with my English counterparts. You made it to the tournament, you want to go as far as you can in the tournament, you don’t care how it’s done, just don’t scare us along the road and most certainly don’t raise our hopes. We do that on our own, thank you very much.
In the mid 00’s both Ireland and England had what they would call a ‘golden generation’. Neither succeeded( a last 16 loss on penalties at the 2002 WC to Spain sure felt like success to us though) but there was a lingering feeling that both should/could/woulda done more. Granted, England should have done much more than we did.
Before you say it, of course this team is not the same as the golden generation back then. The golden generation didn’t have a squad filled with payers who can fill each role. This is a group of players that has been raised with a new English system, where each individual knows the role of where they are playing and what that role needs to do. The last golden generation knew how to be great individually but not as a team. Raised by the standards of their clubs and confused by the tactics of the national team.
Almost 20 years later and we have digressed to a standard never before seen. We are worse than Sweden, and it’s not surprising. England went down the Belgian road, fine tuning their football organization to produce wonderful homegrown talents.
So what to do when you have a least 2 good players for each position and an outrageously good forward line? Revert to the Irish way of course. Be safe and only sorry when you realized you let a whole generation of talent play football counter intuitive to what they do naturally best.
If you disagree, look at the Belgian team. You could say the starting teams are fairly even. They are number 1 and the English are not? Is it because they have more quality? Nope, it’s Bobby Martinez and his swashbuckling ways. Granted, his all out methods don’t appear to look like winning something, but you can imagine Belgian fans being happy to be placed number 1 in the world and playing exciting football.
So don’t think like a French, German, Italian, Spanish or even Belgian fan. That is far too much pressure and you have been hurt before. Revert to the Irish confidence- We may not beat them and if we do, it isn’t going to be pretty, but that’s not the point, it’s the best shot we got and if we lose, well, you can’t feel bad about something that was never going to happen. Just have a pint, it’ll be grand.
That said, if Ireland had a 350 million front three plus about 250 million in back up forwards, with Shay Given still in nets, we too would be acting like the aforementioned European big five fans because only maybe France can speak of higher quality.
Calvino (Fair play to Wales & Italy)
Well done to Wales for disposing of the mighty Turkey in such emphatic fashion, but who was that player who faked a serious head injury in the second half?.
Rather than just go down clutching his face in the accepted fashion of “clever” footballers, he let his arms flop lifelessly and lay there at a weird angle, to make it appear as if he’d been knocked unconscious. The intent was clearly to make absolutely certain that play was stopped, in case the ref didn’t blow for a foul. I don’t think the ref noticed it, as the Turkish player was looming over the cheating scumbag, who had swiftly regained his senses, and a minor brawl ensued.
What next? After such success, perhaps he could stop a breakaway in the knockout stages by dropping to the turf in the centre circle, clutching his chest. Nodweddiadol yn twyllo Cymry, or something like that.
As we near the final round of fixtures in the group stage, attention turns to the various permutations involved for a place in the last 16 and who plays who etc. I understand that there is a need for a few third placed teams to enter the knockouts to make up the 16, but I can’t help think that UEFA have over complicated things in the way the next round is decided.
You have some group winners playing third placed teams whilst others play a group runner up, and you even have situations where a group runner up will play another group’s runner up for a chance to get to the quarters. I know when the draw is originally made it is still completely random as to who plays who and in which group etc but it does mean some teams will have a huge advantage getting to the latter stages due to the quality of opposition.
UEFA could get around this by extending the number of teams to 32 (more revenue so would appeal i’m sure) and reverting to top two in each group progress. I’m not sure its feasible keeping the quality high over the group stages even though it has been enjoyable to watch North Macedonia & Finland in their first outings.
A better idea I feel would be to seed the 6 group winners and have a completely new draw after the group stage is complete which would add an additional layer of excitement and ensure a rightful advantage for the group winners. It wouldn’t work in this tournament with games played across Europe however, in one country, surely would be easier to manage.
Johny Mac (definitely not a bitter England fan) Dubai
Yugoslavia, would they rule European AND world football?
With the hypothetical XIs in the mailbox this week, it made me wonder how the Yugoslavia XI would look like if they were to still exist, their squad is as you may expect quite stacked with talent, some would even say it assembles the best team in Europe, okay may not mightier than France.
GK: Jan Oblak
RB: Šime Vrsaljko
CB: Stegan Savic
CB: Nikola Milenkovic
LB: Alexsandar Kolarov
CM: Mateo Kovacic
CM: Luka Modric
CM: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
CAM: Dusan Tadic
FWD: Edin Dzeko
FWD: Luka Jovic
That is one incredible team, i would argue that Left Back is looking weak due to Kolarov’s age, but if he regained his form Sead Kolašinac would be a top shout.
Anyone else got one of these XIs to share with us all, perhaps a UK XI?
Pride of Norn Iron
GK – Pat Jennings
RB – Mal Donaghy
CH – Alan McDonald
CH – Gareth McAuley
LB – Aaron Hughes
RW – George Best
CM – Danny Blanchflower
CM – Steven Davis
LW – Keith Gillespie
ST – David Healey
ST – Norman Whiteside
Fred Riley, NI
I’d believe you if you told me that Phil Foden was starring in a movie about a robot boy who doesn’t know he’s a robot boy and is being raised as a human being.
Andy Andy Andy
Andy did a great job in the mailbox showing how every English fan is not miserable by showing range and being angry AND miserable.
I got Not All Englishmen-ed by him but fair point about how I shouldn’t be meddling in other countries affairs. Just hope his ancestors had the same energy in the 19th century before invading my country.
Shehzad Ghias, mufc, Karachi