INTERNATIONAL BREAK, PATIENCE SNAP
The way former Fiver favourites England have been going recently, you’d have to say they’ve got a fair chance of winning Euro 2020. They’re scoring plenty of goals, their captain is now officially better than Tom Finney and Alan Shearer, and next summer the final will be played at Wembley, where they’ll be (SATIRE ALERT) boosted by a loyal fanbase unaffected by (SATIRE ALERT) petty club loyalties offering unstinting support to (HAM-FISTED SATIRE ALERT) every single player in the squad.
But other countries are available. For a start there’s Finland, who kick off just as the Fiver is diverted to your spam folder, but we’ve already dealt with them, on Wednesday, when much like today there was the square root of eff all to write about, in an edition that registered a resounding meh out of 10 on our patented Will-This-Do-o-meter. Elsewhere there’s Sweden, who will be pretty much assured of qualification if they can avoid defeat in Romania, but may blow it if they can’t. Though Norway are still technically in with a shout in Group F and they’re only playing the Faroe Islands, a mere seven days away from the return of the Premier League, so let’s just grit our teeth and get on with it, it’ll soon be over.
The most fascinating matches this fine eve will be held in Group D, which is currently somehow topped by the Republic O’Ireland. Eh? Well that happened while The Fiver was looking the other way. Sadly, despite their memorable efforts, Mick McCarthy’s entertainers are far from a shoo-in for qualification, having played a game more than Denmark and Switzerland, who are expected to leapfrog them with wins over Gibraltar and Georgia respectively. Should that occur, everything comes down to the visit of the Danes on Monday evening. The Fiver’s already looking forward to that big Dublin showdown, if only because it’ll give us something to fill this space with on Monday afternoon. Yes we are that desperate, and we’re not afraid to admit it.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Scott Murray from 6.30pm for red hot updates from Friday’s matches in our Euro 2020 qualifying clockwatch.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I definitely have more excitement playing for Wales [than Real Madrid]. It’s like playing with your mates down the park on a Sunday” – Gareth Bale there, managing to anger his Madrid paymasters and any Wales teammates who believe he’s likened them to overweight Sunday league cloggers.
THE ITALIAN JOB
24 January: “I was really hoping to end this experience in a better way, but you cannot make these kind of mistakes” – Marcello Lippi leaves China after a 3-0 defeat by Iran in the AFC Asian Cup.
15 March: Fabio Cannavaro is appointed China manager.
28 April: “With due respect for China as a great country, I feel it’s necessary to announce my decision to give up my position as the Chinese men’s coach” – Fabio Cannavaro waves the white flag after just two games, 1-0 defeats by Thailand and Uzbekistan.
24 May: Marcello Lippi appointed China manager again.
15 November: “I was well paid and I take the full responsibility. I am now announcing my resignation and I will be no longer be the coach of Team China” – Marcello Lippi sees himself out of the door marked 做一个 for a second time this year after a 2-1 defeat by Syria. Maybe it’s time to stop appointing 2006 World Cup winners.
“In an era when money-chasing Mr 15%s cruise the waters of Europe’s top leagues for easy prey, let’s hear it for Finland and a team of non-stars. They’re about to make history by qualifying for a major tournament. Tell your uncle and Antti Niemi, go complete cock-a-Hyypiä, and let’s cheer the Finn, not the shark” – Mark McFadden.
“A look at the team sheet of yesterday’s match at Wembley suggests that perhaps the omission of a prominent England player was for the best. Montenegro simply had too many –ićes for even Raheem Sterling to scratch” – Peter Oh.
“I realise this suggestion is almost certainly misplaced given the likely age/coolness profile of most Fiver readers (myself included), but I’m not sure ‘Finder’ is a great choice of name for the proposed dating site (Thursday’ Fiver). ‘Fyndr’ would be much better, not least as it’ll come up far higher on Google – though having said that, no-one’s going to search for it anyway so feel free to ignore my advice” – Nick Payne
“Am I alone in never knowing what any letter is about?” – Rory O’Malley.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Rory O’Malley, who bags a copy of A Tournament Frozen in Time. We’ve got more prizes to give away, so get scribbling.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Legal bods at Cas have thrown out Manchester City’s appeal against alleged breaches of Uefa’s financial fair play regulations.
Gareth Southgate was most displeased at the booing aimed at Joe Gomez during England’s drubbing of Montenegro. “Joe had done absolutely nothing wrong. No England player should ever be booed when they’re wearing the shirt. I don’t get it,” he tutted.
Former Sunderland boss Jack Ross is now current Hibs boss Jack Ross. “I think we all consider Hibernian to be one of the leading clubs in Scottish football,” roared Ross.
BT Sport have kept their mitts on Big Cup TV rights for the 2021-24 period. It will pay £1.2bn of its not-yet-nationalised coin to hang on to them, however.
Talking of which, Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the ‘pricing out’ of fans at Premier League grounds in an interview with the new When Saturday Comes podcast. “Working-class communities are almost priced out of it,” he soapboxed.
The Premier League has irked fans needing to catch a swift train home by siding with referees over how VAR is deployed, though they will at least be given a bit more information before they ring home with the bad news. Graphics that now read “checking penalty”, will be expanded to say, for example, “checking penalty – possible handball”. Which changes everything.
EFL suits, meanwhile, have charged Sheffield Wednesday with misconduct over the sale of Hillsborough and how it related to their spending rules.
And in a busy week for League Two upheavals, Grimsby Town have hastened boss Michael Jolly through the door marked Do One after a poor recent run of results.
STILL WANT MORE?
It’s Women’s Football Weekend, and it promises big crowds, derbies and drama, writes Suzanne Wrack.
Some of yer actual culture: Sid Lowe on the Cirque de Soleil show dedicated to Lionel Messi.
Gregg Bakowski’s Premier League team of the season features Lord Lundstram and brings all the BTL rows to the yard you’d expect.
England’s 1000th international was much more about celebrating the present than the past, says Barney Ronay.
Thierry Henry’s move to Toronto cements MLS’s rep as a managerial incubator, whoops Graham Ruthven.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!
Tickets are still available for the Football Weekly Christmas Special [on 27 November! – Fiver Grinch Ed], live in London. Get them here.