It’s England v Germany! In the Euros! At Wembley! Bloody hell! It’s going to be a thriller, isn’t it?! Well, um, let’s not get our hopes up too much, eh? With EN 2020 using up its quota of Madcap Drama Chips on Manic Monday there’s a feeling of late-90s indie plodders Embrace following Led Zeppelin on to the main stage at Glastonbury about this one. Not that it isn’t massive but England have yet to play one decent guitar solo in 270 minutes of football and Germany collectively picked their nose for 66 minutes against Hungary last time out before realising they were going to miss the bus to the last 16 if they didn’t shift das Hinterteil quick-style.
Still, that hasn’t stopped assorted hacks from trying to bill this as a Euro 96 revenge mission for England, with many presumably hoping Nice Guy Gareth would rip off his shirt and roar “IT’S [EFFING] COMING HOME!” while thumping a crude tattoo of three lions on his chest and announcing that Gazza is his new specialist matchday vibes coach. No, instead he just said some things which suited the underwhelming yet effective football that England have played so far. “I can’t win this game,” he blabbed. “What happened to me [missing that penalty at Euro 96] has helped in many different areas of my life but it’s of no importance to this group of players … barriers are there to be knocked down in life and that’s the mentality we have got to have.”
It’s the kind of unemotional approach to a collision of footballing powerhouses that makes you realise how far this rivalry has come. 1966 and all that? Gazza’s tears? The 5-1? The 1-4? Pah! The new England are a bloodless lot whose best chance of success will come by grinding out another binary home win. As for Germany they’re, well, a bit English these days. They’re capable of playing some wonderful stuff but, like Weird Uncle Fiver after an all-day session at the boozer, it’s hard to predict if they’ll be entertaining or half-asleep when they turn up.
And with Jogi Löw’s 15-year tenure set to end if England win, the Germany boss channelled the Small Faces as he tried to inject a bit of urgency into his pre-match press conference. “It’s all or nothing,” he crooned. “We have been erratic, but we know that we can be strong if we manage to get a few things right on the pitch. If we don’t, it gets tricky for us. It will be more open than against Hungary, but we must absolutely be on our toes.” $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver is also absolutely on his toes. He’s been up since 3am learning the fourth and fifth verses to God Save The Queen while inserting mini flags of St George into his ears and smearing himself in the scent of Stuart Pearce. He won’t give a flying one if England win via a Mats Hummels own goal, having had no shots on target. He might even celebrate by playing this.
The Euros blog is here, while Barry Glendenning will be on hand at 5pm BST for England 1-2 Germany before Scott Murray guides you through Sweden 1-0 Ukraine (aet) at 8pm.
“I’ve always said this team deserved a lot more than you can read. There was so much discussion about this team. They said we were arrogant but I can guarantee you one thing, we really wrote a history. All Swiss people can be really proud. We achieved something that is impossible to describe with words” – Granit Xhaka sweeps that emo hair away from his eyes to make the impossible, er, possible after their wild 3-3 draw and shootout win over France.
It’s David Squires on … the knockouts and it’s very good.
Football Daily at EN 2020: here’s the latest episode.
“It was very nice that Big Website waxed poetic about the respect that Raheem Sterling is allowed to expect. Too bad that respect doesn’t extend to your banner entitled ‘Who will win the Golden Boot?’ which features a photo of Harry Kane. Where does zero goals place him in the running?” – Pat Condreay.
“As an Irishman (albeit one married to a beautiful English rose), even I will be cheering on the auld enemy against Germany, if for no other reason than to see Gareth Southgate’s post-match comments appear in The Fiver followed by ‘he It’s Coming Homed’” – Declan Houton.
“Re: yesterday’s Fiver letters. May I be the first of 1,056 Polish pedants to point out that Andrzej Duda is as much a leader of anything, as the Polish national team was energetic and formidable during the EN 2020. The bloke’s just a grotesque acolyte to the real autocrat, Jarosław Kaczyński” – Michał Badura (and no other Polish pedants).
Labour is calling on employers to allow England fans to leave work early to watch the big game. “Today is an absolutely massive day for our country,” roared deputy leader Angela Rayner. “After being apart from our friends and family for so long, many of us will want to watch the game with our loved ones, whether at home or in the pub.”
Luis Enrique might draw names from a hat when picking his XI for Spain v the Swiss on Friday after being impressed by everyone who took part in their acid-trip of a 5-3 extra-time win over Croatia. “I have 24 players who can all play from the start,” he trilled. “People think I’m saying it for show but you saw it in this game. The players that came on were superb. I look at the bench and think anyone I pick will not let us down.”
Diddy D is refusing to blame Kylian Mbappé for the missed penalty that sent France through the Euros door marked Do One at the hands of Switzerland. Switzerland! “Nobody can be annoyed with him,” he blathered, while biting his fist really hard. “When you take the responsibility, it can happen. He is obviously very affected by it.”
And Switzerland keeper Yann Sommer is already thinking about the film remake of That Night in Bucharest. “Yes, madness. I’ll give Robert De Niro a call to see if he wants to play me,” he honked.
Fernandinho wants one last ride with Manchester City after signing a 12-month contract extension. “In my head and my mind, the job is not done yet,” he sighed.
And Scott Parker has dried his eyes quick-sharp after leaving Fulham to take the reins at Bournemouth.
Luis Enrique’s nerve-shredding Spanish revolution just about rolls on, writes Jonathan Wilson.
Robin Olsen is Sweden’s “monster” who is ready to devour Ukraine, or at least help beat them later, explains Marcus Christenson.
This is really interesting: why Jason Stockwood bought Grimsby Town.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!