This Euro 2020 thing only really gets going on Tuesday, right?
The small matter of England, oh so conveniently at home, versus Germany – a German side that many are calling/hoping the worst German team since Euro 2000.
Tuesday night is the moment when we find out whether Gareth Southgate is an elite football coach who happens to be a very nice man or just a very nice man. Germany are there for the taking, Gareth – so take them, please. Please take them.
Nobody can deny what Southgate has done in his tenure to date – coming across brilliantly in the media, enforcing a set of morals in the national team where possible, navigating the stormy waters of last year or so plus notching up the small matter of a World Cup and Nations League semi-final double.
He’s got England out of their Euro 2020 group without conceding a goal (just don’t look too closely at the goals for column). We no longer stick rigidly to 442, or 451 or whatever it was Uncle Roy had us playing against Iceland.
Yet, none of that matters if he does not get Tuesday night right.
Rumour has it that the FA are already lining up Southgate’s next contract as a reward for the job he has done to date. The FA are clearly still idiots if this is the case. If Southgate fails to take us past Germany in what is tantamount to a tournament on home soil which the quality of player he has available, he should not be rewarded with a new deal until a full review is written up (and probably ignored).
Granted, better candidates are hardly banging on the door, but let’s not get too hasty in securing failure for the next couple of years, eh?
But, getting all positive briefly, England can beat the Germans if Southgate is brave enough to set the right players loose.
There’s chat that Mason Mount will be brought straight back in after sitting the Czech game out after spending 180 seconds too long trying to understand what Billy Gilmour was talking about in the Wembley tunnel. There’s also a belief that Southgate might go with a back three. Bakayo Saka, superb against the Czechs is awaiting the tap on the shoulder and the ‘your time will come’ conversation whilst goal-creating Jack Grealish will also be nervously waiting for the team sheet.
Both simply have to play which means for me, Mason is on the bench – sorry Frank, sorry Tommy T, sorry to everyone else who thinks Mount is the greatest thing since nicely sliced wholemeal. Grealish and Saka did nothing to warrant being dropped and Mount didn’t do anything against Croatia or Scotland to nail himself down in the team.
England need pace to get at Germany, a team that were so poor they apologised to Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels to get them out of a Jogi Low-imposed retirement to play in this tournament. Germany were five minutes away from being knocked out by Hungary – though it is unlikely they will be that bad again.
England have been practising the long walk to the penalty spot in case this one follows the pattern of 1990 and 1996 and goes to a shoot-out. If it does, my money is it being Jordan Henderson and/or Harry Maguire who miss.
Wales’ trip around Europe has come to a shuddering halt. The Welsh had to travel 5,000 miles plus in their four matches – whereas some other nations (hi, England) have barely had to cross the road to get to their next match. Denmark scored four, Wales didn’t in Amsterdam – leading to the biggest question of the evening. No, not that of Gareth Bale’s future which he answered with good grace – that of why “we” call Denmark Denmark and why “they” call it Danmark. Just wait until that person learns that they have a whole language of their own as well. Heads will explode.
If Austria can put the wind up Italy, are they actually all that? Given that this record-breaking run the Italians are on hasn’t included not losing to anyone who is actually any good, should anyone be that scared? Probably not and now watch them win it.
Matthijs de Ligt might not be feeling his happiest this morning. The Netherlands should have been 1-0 up after they missed a great chance and, in standard football biting-you-on-the-bum style they were down to ten men moments (well moments plus VAR time added on) later after De Ligt handled and the referee, upon, review thought he should take an early one.
Frank de Boer clearly hadn’t planned for the Dutch ever being a man short as they were utterly clueless from that moment and the Czechs went through 2-0, de Boer being hit with a very big Schick and is now in a bit of a Holes.
The rest of the tournament will no longer be a personal crusade for Cristiano Ronaldo to top Ali Daei’s international goal record. Portugal were knocked out by Belgium 1-0 with the other Hazard scoring the winner – meaning Ronaldo is stranded level with Daei on 109 goals. Ah, bless.
Away from all the Euro 2020 stuff, there’s the small matter of a transfer window still in play.
Manchester City are believed to have been a little busy, throwing out £100m plus players bids for Harry Kane and Jack Grealish. In all their keenness, it looks like Peppy G and crew have now alienated Raheem Sterling whose nose is firmly out of joint at being offered to Spurs as a makeweight to get Kane. It could have been worse, Raheem – they might have suggested Villa.
City also want nobody-has-ever-heard-of Umar Sadiq from Almeria to replace Sergio Aguero. Hang on, I thought Kane was replacing Aguero? Maybe Sadiq is replacing one of the other five City are binning off to get Kane – one of which is bound to be Gabby Jesus.
Oh, and they’d also like Reece James (understudy to Kyle Walker for England) to replace Kyle Walker. For City, that is. Not for England. City don’t care about the England team, and why would they?
Gary Neville and the rest of the world are equally bored of the Jadon Sancho to Manchester United saga. It’s thought that United will now pay about £75m for Sancho and not be completely put off by the fact that Dortmund want shot of him and there must be a reason he’s getting nowhere near the England team right now. That said, if the rumours of Sancho legging it back to Manchester at every available opportunity are true, you can understand why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer thinks it might work.
Edinson Cavani is losing so much faith in United’s scouting capabilities that he’s taking it upon himself to file some reports – as a result, United are looking at River Plate’s Nicolas De La Cruz (or Nicky of the Cross which might be a subtle hint from Cavani about the service he’s been getting at Old Trafford) who has impressed in the Copa America.
Eduardo Camavinga of Rennes has been a “next big thing” for a couple of years now, so it’s a surprise it has taken this long for United to be concretely linked to him. Camavinga in, Pogba out to Juventus? That rumour is as old as Camavinga himself.
Chelsea are going through a run of near-misses Timo Werner would be proud of. Hakimi has chosen PSG over Stamford Bridge and it looks like if Romelu Lukaku is to also leave Inter it will be for Bayern Munich who must be starting to look to the post-Lewandowski era. Julian Nagelsmann would also like to restore Werner to his previous glory – a deal Chelsea would probably be open to, maybe if Lewa gets thrown in.
Arsenal have bid £50m for Brighton’s Ben White who has every man and his dog telling him to stay put and wait for a proper offer from a proper club. The move for White might be partly funded by shipping Hector Bellerin off to Inter who need a replacement for Hakimi (off to PSG, remember? Do keep up). Granit Xhaka is also keen to help Arsenal’s transfer pot by claiming Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world – just in case Jose was serious about wanting to sign him.
Arteta will need some of that extra wedge as he is also keen on Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and believe they can compete with Real Madrid for the England striker.
DLC might not be needed at the Bernabeu after all given that they’ve lined up Erling Haaland for £150m, if you believe the word on the Madrid street – which I don’t incidentally.
Everton would like to send someone to Spain, however – they are hoping to persuade Carlo Ancelotti to take James off their hands by way of an apology for stitching them up and leaving. AC Milan hope to have something to say about that move.
Liverpool need to get moving in the market and one of their preferred striker options, Salzburg’s Patson Daka, looks set to sign for Leicester City and get labelled the “new Jamie Vardy”.
King Klopp has higher hopes for snagging Arsenal reject Donyell Malen and Bayern wideboy Kingsley Coman who, I think, probably has a World Cup medal in his bathroom. Malen might want to practice his one-v-ones before signing a deal.
Aston Villa will use some of the Grealish money on Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham – there won’t be much change out of £40m and West Ham continue to believe that all footballers come from the Czech league and want Sparta Prague striker Sima.
Tottenham’s new Director of Football is being linked to every available Serie A player but I’d advise all Spurs fans not to get too excited until Fabrizio Paratici can prove he can get a new coach sorted.
Leeds understandably want to build on being rather good last season and are aiming to sign Hertha Berlin’s Matheus Cunha and Barcelona’s Junior Firpo for not very much at all.
And, of course, the managerial stuff is far from sorted.
Steven Gerrard is about the 11th manager to be linked to Tottenham Hotspur since Daniel Levy relieved Jose from his duties – and Gerrard, if he has any sense, will be the 11th to say no. Nuno is thought to be back in the running having not been interesting enough earlier in the recruitment phase. Brighton’s Graham Potter has made it clear he would not be interested in the job, which is good to know.
Everton are inching closer to annoying their fans more than when they appointed Big Sham – Rafa Benitez is on his way to Goodison Park, the board deciding that appointing a good manager is slightly more important than the feelings of fans who still believe Everton should be as good as they were in 1984. They’d have won the European Cup, don’t you know?
Lucien Favre, sacked by Dortmund last season, had agreed to take over at Crystal Palace and then changed his mind at the last minute – someone probably told him that Croydon isn’t really in London but they like to pretend it is. At this stage, we have no idea who is next. I mean, Frank de Boer might be free again and cheaper than last time.
Yet, the biggest question in all of the latest managerial rumour mongering is this: WHERE IS EDDIE HOWE?