WE GO AGAIN
As a supporter of Liechtenstein and Basingstoke Town, the Fiver cannot possibly understand the scope and scale of what fans of Ireland and Manchester United went through last night. But United’s new Portuguese signing CR
(TBC) certainly put them through the emotional wringer, we can at least appreciate that. He missed a penalty. He reduced Bruno Fernandes to … well, He reduced Bruno Fernandes. He scored a wonderful last-minute equaliser. He scored an even better injury-time winner. He grabbed all the headlines for himself, for better or worse, as is His wont. Bah for Ireland! Yay for United! But also bah for United! Let’s see how this plays out: at least we already know the Republic’s World Cup hopes are banjaxed; it’ll take at least another five or six weeks to gauge whether His inevitable 36-goal haul at Old Trafford this season will be worth all the tactical disruption and sensationalist fuss.
No such worry for Euro 2004 quarter-finalists England, who travel to Hungary this evening full of confidence. And no wonder! They’ve maintained their momentum during the subsequent 17 years, failing at various different points which, if you marked them on a horizontal axis using three crayons and set it to a soundtrack of trumpet and vibraphone, would not appear completely dissimilar to the old London Weekend Television ident that used to pop up before Weekend World. You’ve got a Nantucket Sleighride earworm too, right? Right! Hey, we’re crowbarring in these hot-topic pop-culture references for the kids.
But these early-80s allusions serve a purpose too, because England are facing the Magyars in a World Cup qualifier for the first time since 1981. That’s when an early Paul Mariner goal settled a scrappy affair at Wembley to send Ron’s 22 to Spain by the skin of their teeth, an achievement commemorated on The Road To Spain, lead track on side two of This Time: The Album (K-Tel), by beat poet Ray Clemence’s rousing rap: “I know that we didn’t qualify in the way we would have liked, but hopefully that’s in the past.” Here’s to Gareth Southgate sending the lads out tonight with a similar call to arms ringing in their ears, as yet another barely memorable qualification campaign begins to take shape.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I didn’t give a [monkey’s] about the Manchester United No 7. At first they talked to me a lot about it. It was just a shirt. My problem at Manchester was the coach. Van Gaal was the worst of my career. I would score, assist, and the next day he would show me my misplaced passes. He displaced me from one day to the other, he didn’t like players being more than him” – Ángel Di María, the little rascal, opens up to TyC Sports.
“The Fiver’s recent series of ‘bah humbug’ on the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer [Fridays email, and then a further piss on the chips of United’s fans in Tuesday’s email] reminded me of the time I got a United shirt for my seventh birthday and my uncle Keith made a big thing of telling everyone that it was overpriced polyester made by slave children half my age. My response to the Fiver’s ‘satirical’ takedown of United is similar to my response to uncle Keith “I don’t really care what you think you miserable old sod, this is brilliant!” Good on you Steve Thomas” – Frank.
Steve (Fiver fan) Allen, in criticising Steve (bitter) Thomas just went and left the goal wide open for a Fiver cynical – oops, sorry, satirical – tap-in. What price an ‘only Singh when they’re winning?’ pun in tomorrow’s edition?” – Bernard Murray-Gates (and 1,056 others).
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
“Is that it, or are we going again?” Gareth Southgate has roared at his England players, who face Hungary in a World Cup qualifier tonight.
Granit Xhaka of Arsenal took a “personal decision” not to be vaccinated, says the Swiss FA. Now he’s got Covid-19 and will miss Switzerland’s tie with Greece.
The board of the Icelandic Football Association has resigned after it was claimed it had tried to cover up an allegation of sexual abuse against a player.
Somebody that perhaps does care about the No 7 shirt, Cristiano Ronaldo, celebrated his return to Manchester United by breaking Irish hearts with two late goals for Portugal in a World Cup qualifier.
Scotland paid the price for a disrupted buildup to their own qualifier in Denmark, falling to a 2-0 defeat in Copenhagen.
Harry Wilson missed a penalty for Wales as they drew 0-0 against Finland in a friendly. “There were a lot of positives,” cheered interim manager Robert Page.
After being the subject of much tittle-tattle in the transfer window, Jules Koundé was sent off as France were held to a 1-1 draw by Bosnia-Herzegovina.
STILL WANT MORE
The WSL is back with its biggest ever broadcast deal. Suzanne Wrack wonders if this will be a breakthrough season for the women’s game.
The only way to get over the defeat by Italy in the Euro 2020 final would be to win a major tournament, thunders the England defender Harry Maguire.
England last went to Budapest for a World Cup qualifier 40 years ago desperately needing a win to save their manager’s job, writes Steven Pye.
Jonathan Wilson remembers Edward Shires, the man who paved the way for Jimmy Hogan’s transformative impact on football in Hungary and beyond.
On this day in 1913, the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was born. He features in today’s YouTube roundup, along with some classic WSL clips.
Talented young players and a new coach have turned things around for the USA men’s team, writes Caitlin Murray.
It’s transfer deadline day for the women’s leagues throughout Europe: catch up with the latest moves in our interactive.
And sign up for a daily Big Sports Day email here. It’s not particularly funny but, hey, glass houses and all that.
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