Wednesday briefing: England’s dreaming

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and here are the top stories you need to know about today.

England’s footballers gave a large part of the nation something to be more joyous about as they banished 55 years of hurt by beating Germany in a knockout tie for the first time since 1966. The 2-0 win, thanks to goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, sets up a Euro 2020 quarter-final against Ukraine in Rome on Saturday after the latter beat Sweden 2-1. Barney Ronay describes how the victory doubled as a release from a footballing and pandemic nightmare, while Jonathan Liew dodges the spumes of beer to capture the euphoria among fans inside Wembley – doubtless matched by those watching on television – as those hugely cathartic 90 minutes rolled by. England manager Gareth Southgate, who suffered heartbreaking loss to Germany as a player 25 years ago, praised his “immense” players but warned against complacency. The triumph also made for some dramatic newspaper front pages.

Recovery doubt – Britain’s economic recovery from Covid-19 is coming under pressure amid worker shortages and lengthier pandemic restrictions, as the Delta variant of coronavirus drives up infection rates. The government is preparing to end its furlough wages scheme tomorrow, and the Guardian’s regular survey of businesses shows that the recovery has plateaued. Figures show card transactions are falling, along with retail footfall. Companies are also concerned about labour shortages as Covid infections spike again, and the threat of inflation from tightening supply lines. The good news is that unemployment is falling as hiring goes up, and increased use of public transport is a good sign of more economic activity. It comes as the Bank of International Settlement said Britain’s huge post-Covid government borrowing could push the interest on debt above £100bn a year. Meanwhile, fraud on Covid support loans will cost the taxpayer tens of billions, according to MPs. All in all, one expert warns that the combination of factors means it’s too early to celebrate bouncing back from the pandemic.

‘Jawdropping’ – The pandemic has led to “jawdropping” falls in life expectancy and widening social and health inequalities, according to a study carried out in Greater Manchester. Sir Michael Marmot’s report shows the coronavirus death rate in the region was 25% higher than the England average during the year to March, posing a threat to Boris Johnson’s post-Covid levelling-up agenda.

Canada heatwave – Dozens of people have died in the Canadian city of Vancouver, according to reports, amid an unprecedented heatwave that has sent temperatures close to 50C. Local media reported that police had responded to more than 100 sudden deaths caused by the searing heat that has seen Canada record its highest ever temperature in recent days.

Grave incident’ – North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has given a rare insight into how Covid-19 is affecting the country after he criticised officials for an unspecified “grave incident” that has put the safety of the country and people at risk. State media said Kim took officials to task for neglecting their duties, but did not elaborate on what happened, or how it put people at risk. Follow developments in the pandemic at our live blog here.

‘World’s most beautiful picture’ – One of the masterpiece’s of British art, Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, is to return temporarily to the National Gallery in London after being taken out of the country under controversial circumstances a century ago. Described by newspapers at the time as “the world’s most beautiful picture”, it has been on show in California since it was bought by the American railway magnate Henry E Huntington in 1921 for a then world record price of $728,000.

Maya Wolfe-Robinson visits the Labour-held West Yorkshire seat of Batley and Spen, which votes in an increasingly heated byelection tomorrow.

Analiza Guevarra ended up in modern slavery in London after fleeing poverty in the Philippines. This is the amazing story of how she managed to escape and now helps rescue scores of other people trapped in domestic servitude.

Andy Murray has joined a chorus of players raising concerns about Wimbledon’s Centre Court surface being too slippery after Serena Williams was forced to retire during her first-round match. Ashleigh Barty honoured her opponent, Carla Suárez Navarro, who was playing in her 11th and final Wimbledon after cancer treatment last year, as the Australian world No 1 progressed 6-1, 6-7 (1), 6-1. Roger Federer reached the second round after Adrian Mannarino was forced to retire with a knee injury after a bad slip, the scoreline 6-4, 6-7(3), 3-6, 6-2 ret.

Conor Murray has been backed to do “an amazing job” in his new role as the British & Irish Lions captain as the touring side seek to overcome the untimely loss of their injured totem Alun Wyn Jones. Rafael Benítez will be confirmed as Everton’s new manager after finalising terms on a three-year contract at Goodison Park. The International Cricket Council has moved the Twenty20 World Cup from India to the United Arab Emirates and Oman because of the pandemic.

Flying cars will be a reality in cities around the globe by the end of this decade, according to Hyundai, and will help to reduce congestion and cut vehicle emissions. The Korean carmaker said it had made some “very significant investments” in urban air mobility and that it “really is part of the future”.

The FTSE100 is going to be up about 0.15% according to futures trade, and the pound is on $1.385 and €1.164.

The football provides licence for some ingenious puns. The Sun takes the old Euro 96 anthem and proclaims “55 years of hurt never stopped us Raheeming!”, while the Metro goes back to 1966 for “The jinx, it’s all over”. The Mirror goes straighter with “Time to dream” and the Mail delights at a royal presence at the match with “By George we did it!”.

Amid all the excitement of the football, the Guardian’s main story is “‘Jaw-dropping’ fall in life expectancy in poor areas”. For the Times it is “Bid to end school Covid chaos” and the Telegraph says “Isolation hitting poor pupils hardest”. The Express is outraged about the harassment of Chris Whitty and asks: “Have police lost the plot?” The i says “Jabs stockpile to help UK live with Covid”. Mentions of the football are rarer north of the border where the Scotsman leads on “Contact tracing failing to reach most people in time” and the Herald has “Taxpayers face £27bn loss for Covid loans fraud”.

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