The Euro 2020 Fiver: hopes pinned on diminutive geniuses like 1974 again

·6 min read

FAT CHANCE

England were calmness personified at Wembley yesterday. As first games at a major finals go, their professional, clinical, poised win over bogey side Croatia was a most instructive experience. It was a much more impressive performance than their scrambled win over Tunisia in Russia three years ago, and look how well they did after that. It was also a much better result than the draws with Switzerland at Euro 96, Ireland at Italia 90 and Uruguay in 1966, three other particularly notable campaigns it says here. Statistically it wasn’t up there with the 3-1 win against France at the 1982 World Cup or the 2-0 win over Chile in 1950, but let’s not start pulling at threads. Go England! Well done, everyone, and for once we mean it.

Related: Steve Clarke tells Scotland to retain ‘emotional control’ amid Euros fever

So these are uncharted waters for a country, and indeed a tea-time email forced to set its alarm much earlier than usual, more comfortable when moaning. To his eternal credit, Gareth Southgate identified this potential bear trap soon after Sunday’s sun-kissed romp, and found something to fuss and fret over. “You can get a bit of a glow of the win and a bit soft, a bit puddingy when you poke your finger in the belly.” Disgraceful, body-shaming, sizeist diatribe? Or simple metaphor warning against complacency with “an incredible game against Scotland and a huge challenge” coming up later in the week, and let’s face it, all those late-night kebabs back in 1996 probably didn’t help matters when attempting to toe-poke one over the line against Germany in golden-goal extra time? You decide!

The Fiver is much more comfortable dealing with impending doom, and oh look, here come the aforementioned Scots. This afternoon, they play their first game at a major finals since Jim Leighton showcased his bump-set-spike volleyball skills against Morocco in 1998, the Colin Age, when Hendrys and Calderwoods roamed the earth. The world has since turned, so much so we’re all the way back to the point where hopes are pinned on diminutive geniuses, like it’s 1974 all over again. Ryan Fraser may support the attack, while Billy Gilmour could come off the bench when things start going wrong, as they possibly might given Scotland have won their last three against the Czechs, and these runs have a habit of coming to an abrupt end when things begin to really matter. So godspeed, Scotland. The usually incorrect Fiver has done its best to tempt fate with its downbeat analysis. Over to you.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!

The Euros blog is here, while Scott Murray will be on hand for hot MBM coverage of Scotland 0-0 Czech Republic at 2pm (all times BST), followed by Barry Glendenning on Poland 1-1 Slovakia at 5pm and John Brewin on Spain 2-1 Sweden at 8pm.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We all want to understand what happened to him and he wants to as well. The doctors are doing some detailed examinations, it will take time. Christian does not give up. Him and his family want to send everyone their thanks. He was joking around and in good spirits, he was doing well” – Christian Eriksen’s agent releases an optimistic update after the Denmark playmaker suffered a cardiac arrest during the match against Finland. Get well soon Christian, from all at Fiver Towers.

A message of support for Christian Eriksen at Wembley.
A message of support for Christian Eriksen at Wembley. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Reuters

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Daily at EN 2020: here’s the latest episode.

FIVER LETTERS

“What happened to Skillzy? His hallucinogen-induced encounter with Jesus was the only bit of EN 2020 I was actually looking forward to” – Joe Mercer.

Note: Skillzy died on the way back to his home planet.
Note: Skillzy died on the way back to his home planet. Photograph: Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

“Quite the link to the classic French Euro opener (Friday’s Last Line). I still have fond memories of this classic gem of investigative journalism” – Marcus Roth.

“Was it just me or did the flyover shot of Lens (Friday’s Last Line) remind anybody of Telly Savalas Looks at Birmingham?” – Katie Maddock.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Joe Mercer.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

More schekzy matches like Netherlands 3-2 Ukraine please!

“It’s more about releasing it publicly. I saw him in the dressing room, I congratulated him on his goals, he didn’t say anything to me.” Kylian Mbappé has ensured the France camp is about as happy as it usually is before a major tournament by biting back at Olivier Giroud’s public whinge that no one ever passes to him.

Vibes, earlier.
Vibes, earlier. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images

João Cancelo has tested positive for Covid-19 and has been replaced in the Portugal squad by Diogo Dalot.

Belgium have decided to swerve staying in St Petersburg for three nights to limit the risk of anyone catching Covid and will instead stay near Brussels until they face Denmark. “The players will train in Tubize, in a more Covid-safe environment,” said a Belgian FA suit.

And Spain boss Luis Enrique reckons the Covid chaos in the buildup to Euro Not 2020 is no excuse if his side fall short against Sweden. “They’re not ideal conditions,” he sighed, “but we’re among the six or seven favourites for sure.”

NON-EUROS BUSINESS

Former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca is set to be appointed as Spurs’ new sheriff in town on a three-year-deal when the managerial merry-go-round stops spinning in N17.

Brazil hammered Covid-hit Venezuela 3-0 in their Copa América opener. “Thanks be to God we were able to score in the first half and that helped us,” cheered Marquinhos.

Carli Lloyd scored after 24 seconds in a 4-0 win over Jamaica as the USWNT extended their unbeaten run in the USA! USA!! USA!!! to 55 games.

And Burnley are this close to gobbling up Ashley Young, who is available on a freebie after his contract expired at Serie A-winning Inter.

STILL WANT MORE?

‘You could hear a pin drop’: one Denmark fan on a harrowing night at Parken.

Raheem Sterling brings catharsis to England’s sun-kissed reemergence, whoops Barney Ronay. While Jonathan Liew heaps praise on Kalvin Phillips, a new hope.

Nick Ames speaks to those who know Robert Lewandowski and hears that the Poland striker’s road to greatness has not always been a smooth one.

Robert Lewandowski versus sprinkler, earlier.
Robert Lewandowski versus sprinkler, earlier. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

Look out Scotland! Jaroslav Silhavy is a polite moderniser who has the Czechs bouncing.

How Slovakia learned to love Marek Hamsik. By Lukas Vrablik.

Bruno Fernandes: aptitude plus attitude equals transformative magic. By Daniel Harris.

Rodri chews the fat with Sid Lowe about trying to step out of Sergio Busquets’ shadow and working on a business degree during lockdown.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

AND IN THE DAY’S BIG SPORTING NEWS

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