The Fiver’s so excited it’s got joy stains [Tin spills, obviously – Fiver Ed]. Tis the day of the big Euro semi-final, see, the one between two countries who have a long and proud history of collecting silverware and knocking seven bells out of each other. We’re not just talking about the tika-taka torture inflicted by Spain in the Euro 2012 final or the merciless way Italy ended the Spaniards’ golden era four years later. Because the very first competitive meeting between Italy and Spain set the tone for a rivalry that has provided constant thrills for fans of sport and splatter movies alike, with their clash at the 1934 World Cup so keenly fought that several players were carried off on a stretcher and one of them, Mario Pizziolo, had his leg broken so badly that he never played for his country again and had to wait 54 years to pick up his winner’s medal.
Spain’s current manager, Luis Enrique, still sports a souvenir of his own last meeting with Italy: look closely when the camera pans to him later and you might just be able to spot a crumple on his face and a flame in his eye, evidence of the broken nose he suffered when Mauro Tassotti’s elbow went rogue at the 1994 World Cup, unnoticed by the officials despite an obvious blood trail. “Luis Enrique wanted to kill the referee and Tassotti,” the Red Fury’s then-physio, Senen Cortegoso, later revealed. Even later Luis Enrique and Tassotti met and made peace – all the same, it might be best if this match is skipped by viewers of a sensitive disposition, not to mention Ciro Immobile, whose readiness for battle is in doubt after he was pinned down by a poltergeist during the quarter-final victory over Belgium.
Yes, yes, The Fiver knows that times have changed and the Italian team, in particular, has become an outfit as slick as any worn by their mannequin, Roberto Mancini. But this is a semi-final and no quarter can be given. Mancini even reckons Immobile could turn out to be the hero despite his scare in the last match and his frightfully inconsistent finishing. “Often in a major tournament it is the most maligned player who can prove to be the match-winner,” bugled Mancini, unaware that he could just as easily have been giving a pep talk to Álvaro Morata.
Mind you, Spain’s much-criticised occasional goal-getter knows all too well from training sessions at Juventus how tough it is to escape the attentions of Giorgio Chiellini, once describing the challenge of trying to score against him as “like being put in a cage with a gorilla and you have to steal his food”. Let the battle commence.
Follow the buildup to Italy 2-0 Spain in our Euro Not 2020 rolling news blog and then join Scott Murray for red-hot minute-by-minute updates from 8pm BST.
“Ferran Torres and Rodri could have gone to the Olympics but they’re not because they went to the Euros. It’s too much. One tournament in a summer is enough. The clubs are the ones who pay the players and they need to protect their assets. The current match calendar is brutal and yet new competitions and tournaments keep being created” – Pep Guardiola is none too keen on these new football tournaments, like Big Sports Day, which was thrown on to the calendar in, erm, 776BC.
David Squires on unicorns and Gareth Southgate … the same thing for some people.
The latest edition of EN 2020 Football Daily is here for your ears.
“Given your less-than-impressive score predictions, may I offer some guidance. England’s last four scores 0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 4-0 suggest an emerging pattern. On second thoughts, best stick to your Purple Tin-assisted random score predictor. It’s nice to dream though and would all but certainly usher in a Golden Boot for the ‘tribal elders’ – Philip Blackwell.
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Harry Kane wants England to seize their moment and push for glory on home soil. “For me and a few of the older more experienced ones it will be the last chance to play a major tournament game at Wembley,” he tooted. “What an opportunity. What a moment it will be.”
Denmark defender Andreas Christensen isn’t fazed despite England being favourites for their semi-final. “I feel like we have the qualities to play against everyone,” he cheered. “As a team, I would not say they are that much better.”
Danish fans are still gripped by Euros fever, even if they can’t get along to the last four. “‘Euphoric’ is probably the word for how many Danes feel right now,” roared Anne Nielsen. “People really want to be together in person after the long Covid winter.”
Former Darlington boss Craig Liddle has been reflecting on the fact that opposition keepers Jordan Pickford and Kasper Schmeichel both made their debuts on loan with the Quakers. “Darlington can be a very proud club that they have had two keepers of that magnitude making their senior debuts for them,” he reminisced.
And Belgium are expecting Bobby M to stay in situ as manager. “Tomorrow we are already starting preparations for the September and October matches,” parped Belgian FA suit Peter Bossaert. “[Bobby M] will be there. No official communication will follow, but there is no reason to change the staff.”
Brazil are through to the Copa América final after beating Peru 1-0. “I want Argentina in the final,” whooped Neymar. “I am cheering for them because I have many friends there. In the final, Brazil will win.”
Sergio Ramos is set to join Achraf Hakimi and Gianluigi Donnarumma in a triple move by PSG.
And Maurizio Sarri says he found Cristiano Ronaldo tricky to manage during his time at Juventus. “He is a multinational company with personal interests that must be combined with those of the team,” puffed Sarri. “I consider myself to be better at being a coach than a manager. There are also a lot of positive aspects, because Ronaldo will bring results home in the end, and they are important results. He represents something that goes beyond the club, with more than 200 million followers on social media, but this is a problem in our society. Unfortunately, there is too much talk about players and little about teams.”
Nicky Bandini looks at Italy’s rivalry with Spain and what they’ve learned from them.
Floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson gets his Shakespeare on to delve into the tactical decisions facing Gareth Southgate.
Karen Carney on why Raheem Sterling is the man Denmark should fear.
How Simon Kjær became Denmark’s leader. By Marcus Christenson.
Kieran Trippier tells David Hytner: “When you train with Sancho or Rashford there are no fears.”
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