The weekend is nearly upon us and there’s only one question on everyone’s minds: is football coming back to Weird Uncle Fiver’s place or is it off to shack up with a bunch of hot Italians? No one knows the answer to that just yet but Harry Kane is believed to be leaning one way, and that might be enough for a referee to award him a free-kick. It’s not cheating, it’s canny use of physics.
Football is increasingly scientific these days, of course, and the one thing we can be sure of before Sunday’s Euro Not 2020 final between England and Italy is that the boffins and the boffini will have studied each others’ teams in minute detail. Gareth Southgate and Robbie M could walk up to each opposing player, fix them square in the eyes and hand them, Kobayashi-style, envelopes chronicling everything they have ever done, where and with whom. There are no secrets any more in football, except the ones the lawyers won’t let us tell you.
So the teams will be as well prepared as they possibly could be for Sunday’s showdown. Jordan Pickford, for instance, will know that the Italians may try to rile him. The Italians will know Pickford is perfectly capable of riling himself. The English will know that when the human card-magnet Marco Verratti says “these matches can put you under a lot of pressure and I think that the team that plays with a mind that is free will gain the upper hand”, Italy have a big selection decision to make in midfield. And Gianluigi Donnarumma will know that he’d best pack sunglasses because the light can be blinding at Wembley when the home team play. Uefa suspects the use of laser-pointers but who’s to say it’s not down to the glow from all those English halos?
The Fiver doesn’t mean to come across as grudging, reader. We’re as charmed as anyone by the players of England and Italy and the way their managers have helped to change styles and perceptions. One country’s supporters will be enjoying an epic session on Sunday night, and rest assured so will The Fiver. And in the interests of balance, no matter which of the countries win, The Fiver will demand a knighthood for the manager who did most to make their victory possible. Arise Sir Didier!
The EN 2020 rolling blog is here. It won’t be here for long.
“We’ve actually ended up setting up a women’s open-age team, from nowhere. Why are they ringing us? We don’t have a ladies team. It’s the Kalvin link. They’re not wanting to join an established women’s club, they want to come here” – Wortley secretary Ian Thackray explains how the inspiration of former player Kalvin Phillips has resulted in a new women’s team being established.
“Amid all the talk of Gareth Southgate being a great manager, we should not overlook an even bigger success story from this tournament. We need to recognise the great achievement of The Man, who has somehow persuaded The Fiver to keep showing up four hours early, despite the fact that there have been no afternoon games for the last week” – Richard O’Hagan.
“Not to burst anyone’s bubble, of course, but can a tournament really be considered legitimate that doesn’t embrace the entertainment-fest of a third-place play-off?” – Rohan Mongru.
“The winner at Wembley on Sunday evening will be awarded the Delaunay Trophy, named after Henri Delaunay, Uefa’s first general secretary. A former player, he apparently turned to refereeing but decided to retire following an incident during a game between AF Garenne-Doves and ES Benevolence, where the poor fellow was hit full in the face by the ball, shattering two of his teeth and, more alarmingly, causing him to swallow his whistle. I have no idea whether it was ever recovered although I’m pretty certain it would never have been blown again” – Allastair McGillivray.
“While most Norn Iron fans are also England supporters when we aren’t in a tournament (hardcore England fans then), we are – to a man and woman – devastated that they have stolen our anthem Sweet Caroline off us and pretended to have just discovered it! Shame on you. Good luck on Sunday” – Shane Lockhead.
Boris Johnson is poised to call an extra bank holiday if England win Sunday’s final at Wembley. “Let’s see what happens,” parped the prime minister.
In more PR stunt news, meerkats at London Zoo have picked England to beat Italy.
A school in Hartlepool has defended its decision to allow pupils to come in as late as 10.30am on Monday morning so they can stay up to watch. “We would rather have children rested and in school ready to learn rather than absent all day or grumpy,” tooted Rossmere primary school.
Residents of Little Italy in Clerkenwell, London, are expecting mixed emotions after the final. “If we win, you’ll be sad and I don’t want the English people to be sad,” sighed a priest at St Peter’s church. “If you win, I’ll be sad and you can’t console me.”
And Shaun Williamson – Barry off EastEnders – is still on a high after rocking up in Croydon to sing Sweet Caroline for fans watching England’s semi-final win. “I just couldn’t believe the reaction,” he crooned. “I’ve been singing that song for 25 years, I do a lot of cabaret when I’m not acting and I’ve never known a reaction like that.” Not even at the bowls?
They say never go back, but what about going back again and again? Dutch suits are pondering that decision after offering the Netherlands gig to Louis van Gaal.
Milan look like getting Olivier Giroud in a £1.7m deal from Chelsea.
Arsenal will appear in the new season of Amazon’s All or Nothing documentary, with the title’s latter word again doing much of the heavy lifting.
And Dundalk are in control of their Tin Pot qualifying-round tie against Newtown after a 4-0 first-leg win.
Would actually winning EN 2020 change England, wonders Jonathan Liew.
Proper Journalism’s David Conn on England sticking it to shameless chancers and bandwagon-hoppers.
David Hytner on the day a pre-teen Raheem Sterling showed the steeliness that shapes him.
Giorgio Chiellini, Italy’s grinning warrior. By Nicky Bandini.
Karen Carney looks at how England can get at Italy.
Bloody draws and blown penalties: six classic England v Italy games.
Quiz! Quiz! Quiz! Test your football anthems knowledge.
And if EN 2020 isn’t enough for you this weekend, how about some Fun and Games in South America Dept.
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