England resting players in the group stage and finishing as runners-up has never backfired at a Euros before. Ignore Phil Foden and do it.
Portugal. The Man
So distracted by the hue of Phil Foden’s hair is Dave Kidd that he forgets to be too miserable about England’s Euro 2020 chances in The Sun on Wednesday. But the man who simmered at a ‘nightmare’ build-up to the tournament and a ‘frivolous’ selection of Jordan Henderson that turned the Liverpool captain into a ‘rampant egotist’, does manage to bring a bit of grump to proceedings.
‘Many former England players have, understandably, rejected comparisons with old legends but this kid embraces them,’ he writes of Foden.
‘While many of us fail to see a way past a likely last-16 clash with France or Portugal, Foden talks of Gareth Southgate’s men winning the tournament.’
Well they are second-favourites and stand to play many of their matches at home with a squad boasting seven starters from the most recent Champions League final. They are quite good.
But also, who is this ‘many’ that ‘fail to see a way past’ Portugal in the knockouts? France is fair enough – they are world champions and a level above everyone else – but Fernando Santos’s side would hardly be insurmountable opposition; England beat them when they last played in 2016.
Portugal have won 12 of 20 games since the 2018 World Cup, losing to Ukraine as recently as October 2019. England have won 17 of 22 games since the 2018 World Cup, beating Belgium as recently as October 2020. These are similarly good teams.
The only way for England to face France in the last 16, by the way, is if the former win their group and the latter finish as runner-up in theirs. And if that happens then perhaps France might not really be all that.
The frozen route experts
Sky Sports seem similarly pessimistic as they plot England’s path through the tournament.
"Gareth Southgate might even prefer to avoid a potential last-16 meeting with one of Portugal, Germany, France or Hungary, who lie in wait if England win Group D." ✍️
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) June 8, 2021
It was literally the last European Championships when England went into their final group game top by a point before Roy Hodgson made six changes against Slovakia, rested Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling and drew 0-0 to finish as runners-up. They drew Iceland in the next round. It went well.
Foden and his teammates would presumably be delighted to spend the entire tournament trying to avoid testing themselves against the best teams on the continent. That’s what it’s all about.
But back to Kidd, who writes of Foden:
‘His youthful optimism, even naivety, is preferable to those previous generations of England players weighed down by past failures.’
Is the chief sports writer of the nation’s best-selling tabloid referring to his own industry as ‘past failures’, or is he ignoring whatever part they have played in England’s historic disappointments? It’s not for Mediawatch to say.
This is the greatest and best song in the world
The Daily Telegraph was so collectively taken aback by Foden’s haircut that they chose to completely ignore the player during his England press conference.
‘Manchester City playmaker made no secret of fact that his new look is a tribute to a player whose glory years came before Foden was born,’ reads the sub-headline to Matt Law’s article, which is otherwise perfectly accurate and representative of what the player actually said, such as this line:
“I’ve had the same haircut for ages now so I thought I would try something new and woke up this morning with a lot of comparisons to Gazza and Eminem. It was my own thing and people have turned it into something else.”
That right there sure is a player who ‘made no secret of fact’ that his haircut was a ‘tribute’ to someone he seems pretty adamant it was not a tribute to.
It came as a welcome surprise that so few journalists fell into the obvious trap when it came to Jordan Henderson’s response to Roy Keane. But Matt Hughes of the Daily Mail did (not) disappoint:
‘Jordan Henderson has hit back at Roy Keane after the former Manchester United captain suggested he has only been included in England’s squad for the Euros to do card tricks and organise team quizzes.’
Here are some choice snippets of how Henderson ‘hit back’:
“To be fair to Roy, he can say what he wants about me. He gave me my debut and I wouldn’t be here without him giving me that. He can say whatever he wants about me.”
“I found it quite funny, actually.”
“So, yeah, listen, we know a little bit more detail, I know more detail and so does the manager, which Roy may not.”
Absolutely accurate without being even vaguely disrespectful, defensive or confrontational.
“Yeah, and the card tricks he was on about – I’ve got a few of them up me sleeve!”
Are you even allowed to publish such volatile quotes?
In lieu of any actual update on Marcelo Bielsa’s contract situation at Leeds, The Sun website twists something really quite lovely into a clue as to his plans.
‘Marcelo Bielsa dropped a big hint over his Leeds future by ditching the beach to coach an Under-11’s side.’
Not everything has to be framed as clickbait. Just let nice things be nice.
‘Bielsa gave a blunt “no” when asked by SunSport towards the end of the season if he had any holiday plans this summer.’
If only there was an explanation as to why the 65-year-old man either decided he didn’t want to go abroad during a global pandemic, or felt that it was none of a newspaper’s business.
Biggest news story of the day
‘KYLE WALKER has the highest estimated energy bill of all footballers thanks to his luxury £3million home, according to research’ – The Sun website.
‘Kevin De Bruyne spotted with black eye sparking fears he will miss Euro 2020 opener.’
This just in: The Sun website thinks that orbital fractures show no visible symptoms about a week and a half later.
Euro 2020 is finally here – and what better way to celebrate than with a preview show to mark the launch of our new multi-sport website Planet Sport?