LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE WEEKEND
The Fiver was worried that, in the context of a jam-packed 2020-21 season, two days without any Euro 2020 games would be an unendurable drought. Thankfully we’ve still got Premier League Years 1994-95 to watch on loop – that John Hartson tackle (sic) never gets old – and now it’s almost time for more live action. We’ve done our bit for Uefa’s official partnerships by readying multiple crates of 0.00% Heineken and our homemade 60.00% Coca-Cola. (The 60 is a reference to the inaugural European Nations Cup, and in no way reflects a partial misjudgement with the turps during the brewing process.)
The round that we will go to our grave refusing to refer to as the ‘round of 16’ begins with Wales v Denmark tomorrow afternoon. This should be a feelgood story whichever team wins, and the draw is also guaranteed thanks to the enduring patriotism of Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The only regret is that no Wales fans are allowed in Amsterdam to potentially experience the joyous moment of being clonked on the head by one of Gareth Bale’s less precise finishes. From there it’s across to London, where voguish hotties Italy are expected to beat Austria with the minimum of fuss. Then, on Sunday, it’s the Netherlands v the Czech Republic in the “the” derby in Budapest. Every time these two meet, the Fiver is taken back to Euro 2000, and particularly Jaap Stam having brain surgery without an aesthetic. Clive, it’s a metaphor.
This time, the pre-match focus is on a man who could probably do with having his brain rewired: the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, and particularly his antediluvian take on equality and diversity. The Netherlands captain Gini Wijnaldum will wear a rainbow armband during the match and says he is prepared to take his team off the field if any of them are racially abused. Now, the Fiver is the opposite of an accomplished newshound, although we hope to get some professional training just as soon as we’ve finished looking into unconfirmed reports that John Fitzgerald Kennedy has been shot. But even we have a feeling this potential walk-off is going to become one of the biggest stories of Euro 2020.
Hopefully it won’t, and the Monday headlines will be saved for the weekend’s final fixture: the golden generation of Belgium against a one-man golden generation called Cristiano. A group of death does not end when someone plunges a serrated one into Hungarian hearts; it has a knock-on effect to the knockout stages, because you can end up with a group winner playing a third-placed team who also happen to be the defending champions. Belgium v Portugal, in the last 16? Not even Premier League Years 1994-95 will be able to tempt us away from this one.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Gah – another rest day? Ah well. You can still keep up with all the latest news with our rolling Friday live blog. And you can join us on Saturday for Wales 1-2 Denmark (5pm) and Italy 3-0 Austria (8pm), and then Netherlands 3-2 Czech Republic (5pm) and Belgium 1-1 Portugal (4-5 on pens, 8pm) on Sunday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Everyone recognised that Anthony was perfect. He managed this difficult moment in a great way. We are proud about his behaviour. We recommended to the referees that safety is first, it is the most important target for us. The referees must stop the match immediately in these situations. Anthony was amazing.” Uefa’s chief refereeing officer, Roberto Rosetti, praises Anthony Taylor’s quick response to Christian Eriksen’s on-field collapse.
“Re: nobody apart from Alan Shearer remembering that England v Germany game in 2000 (yesterday’s Fiver). I don’t remember it either as, by the time Shearer’s header went in, I was surrendering to Belgian police outside the only bar in Charleroi that was showing the game. The 34,980-ish England fans in the bar had drunk it dry before kick-off, so Notts County and Derby fans decided to entertain us with ‘rivalry’ outside the venue. The arriving Belgian police commander gave us two options that evening: 1) ‘voluntary arrest’; or 2) ‘violence then arrest’. Having seen what happened to the option 2 people, I was pleased with my choice” – Trevor Martin (and friends).
“Not sure if anyone has picked up on this crucial point: England have a massive advantage against Germany because the Germans will have to conserve energy for another tough game only days later, whereas the English players will be able to relax and take it easy” – Simon Dunsby.
“Given we now have two sets of fixtures, the ongoing shenanigans of clubs who have had points docked, relegated teams tumbling down the pyramid, the great inequalities of parachute funds and a fair number of dodgy owners, can we now officially call the Championship the world’s first League of Death?” – Michael Lloyd.
“It took me quite a while to conclude that a ‘pine-rider’ (yesterday’s non-Euros business) was an alternative coinage for ‘bench-warmer’. I do like the term, but of course modern dugout seating is a lot less rustic. Perhaps ‘leatherette-lounger’ or ‘polypropylene-percher’ would be more apt?” – Steve Allen.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Simon Dunsby.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa are investigating claims of “potential discriminatory incidents” during Hungary’s game against Germany in Munich. Details of the incidents have not been provided yet. A separate investigation is already under way into incidents at Hungary’s games in Budapest against Portugal and France.
Column-inches-filling news: Marcus Rashford has urged his England teammates to make history against Germany in their Wembley showdown. “Our main focus is to win the game, but if we do it gets put in history,” Rashford roared.
The-absolute-state-of-it news: Álvaro Morata has revealed social media abuse he has suffered during the Euros, with his family also being harassed in Seville. “My wife and children have come to the stadium with Morata on their shirts and people have been shouting at them,” the striker said.
Lothar Matthäus has been watching Jogi Löw in the Germany dugout, and doesn’t like what he sees. “I am missing the connection between the bench and the players on the field,” Matthäus groaned. “He changed so many things. He changed one player for another and also the system – Joshua Kimmich played four positions.”
Uefa has sent away goals the way of the dodo after 56 years of use in European competitions.
Lucien Favre will not be Crystal Palace’s new manager, having marched himself out the door marked Do One before he had even signed his three-year contract.
It’s been two months since José Mourinho was canned, and Tottenham are still looking for a replacement. Nuno Espírito Santo is the name of Daniel Levy’s latest flame.
Ben White will join Arsenal if Brighton get £50m: sounds like a good deal for everyone, except perhaps Ben White.
Union Jack Grealish could be about to take his tiny shinpads north and join Manchester City’s zero-strikers conceptual art project for a £100m fee.
And Norwich have announced a new sponsorship deal with Lotus, after ending their previous agreement with BK8 Sports over the betting firm’s $exually provocative marketing content.
STILL WANT MORE?
Philip Lahm on how Denmark’s team spirit and Germany’s rainbow-lit stadiums have led the way for inclusivity amid a turbulent backdrop at EN 2020.
Jacob Steinberg on why Raheem Sterling deserves a little respect.
“Some of our players weren’t even born then.” England shake off that post-Euro 96 pizza advert and make the Fiver feel very old. David Hytner has more.
Lothar Matthäus has seen this movie before, and predicts England will lose to Germany on penalties.
Loadsamoney? Lots of clean sheets, too. Nicky Bandini on how Milan escapee Gianluigi Donnarumma has silenced the critics.
Big Paper’s Steven Morris on how Wales’ latest Euro exploits have made an impact back home.
Full-backs bombing on and goals aplenty. Attacking full-backs are the order of the day at EN 2020, muses Jonathan Wilson.
Sergio Busquets is still doing his thing for Spain, as Sid Lowe reports.
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