THAT’LL BE A QUIET NIGHT IN AT THE LIBRARY. NOT
It’s England v Scotland tonight: there’s your Friday Fiver! Buh-bye!
After proudly presenting this big-match preview to The Man at 7.01am, The Fiver strolled out of Fiver Towers, whistling Friday I’m in Love and salivating at the thought of the day’s first Buckfast latte. By 7.10am we were back at our desk, hovering just above the seat, weeping inaudibly. The Man’s precise application of his trusty rattan motivational tool to our uncovered hindquarters, which intensified despite our pitiful pleas of “but you said less is more”, left us in no doubt that he expected a minimum of 400 words to preview the game between England and Scotland at Wembley. It was a sobering, painful realisation. We’re starting to feel a little better now though, especially as this largely pointless detour has taken care of the first 130-odd of them.
Yep, it’s England v Scotland tonight. Truly, yins don’t come much bigger. This is international football’s oldest rivalry, and even Great Great Great Great Grandad Fiver, who has lived entirely on seaweed and good vibes since an unlikely epiphany during the first world war, wasn’t born when the sides first met in 1872. But it’s a strange kind of rivalry – increasingly one-sided, between two countries who have grown further apart since those historic playfights starring Mel Gibson.
Neither country thinks much of the other. $exually Repressed Morris Dancing Fiver, our English cousin, has offered us odds of 100-1 against Scotland winning a throw-in, and says they should pay for the privilege of inhaling the fumes from Phil Foden’s hair. Our Scottish cousin, Shortbread McFiver, keeps walking very deliberately – partly in tribute to David Sole’s slow march, partly because he last experienced sobriety on Tuesday afternoon. McFiver is one of a 20,000-strong Tartan Army in London for the game. They would love their team to pick up three points, but three sheets is the next best thing and the early arrivals have reminded some of their hosts that it’s possible to be blootered for 72 hours straight without feeling the urge to pummel the nearest coupon.
On the field nobody gives Scotland much chance, though rhyme and reason never stopped anyone dreaming at Wembley. They will be boosted by the return of Kieran Tierney, and could also do themselves an appreciable solid by including Billy Gilmour. England have Harry Maguire available again after ankle-knack, though he is unlikely to start. Will that do? Yeah, that’ll do. Oh, and just in case you missed it earlier, it’s bloody England v Scotland tonight!
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
The Euros blog is here, while Paul Doyle will be on hand for hot MBM coverage of Sweden 0-0 Slovakia at 2pm (all times BST), followed by Barry Glendenning on Croatia 2-1 Czech Republic at 5pm and Rob Smyth with England 0-0 Scotland at 8pm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Of course I’m a big-time Charlie. I played for Man United. I played for Liverpool. I won trophies. I won FA Cups. I’m no bigger-time Charlie than Cantona or Keane or Robson. But we are big-time Charlies because when it comes to the big events, we produce” – Paul Ince gets his chat on with David Hytner about England v Scotland at Euro 96 and that Lord Ferg description.
“I realise that your mission is to confuse, so, congratulations. I, an elderly woman, was delighted when I discovered from letters last week that your name refers to the time you supposedly arrive in my email. Since then you’ve arrived earlier and earlier – just after midday yesterday. As a Derby County fan, I’m used to confusion, but I now need a permanent darkened room to lie down in” – Sheila Waters.
“Wales’s change strip against Turkey (yesterday’s Fiver) has nothing to do with Australia. Yellow and green is the colour of the daffodil, the national flower of Wales. So hopefully back to red against Italy. Diolch” – Bryn Stevenson-Davies.
“A five-wood over the bar from 12 yards (yesterday’s Fiver)? I’d like to see that. Seve would be impressed, maybe” – Ken McLean.
“While I sympathise with Patrick O’Brien’s position (yesterday’s Fiver letters), it should be pointed out that Cristiano Ronaldo shot to fame at Manchester United, so he is less likely to perceive ‘plastics’ as a problem than many of us” – Ed Taylor.
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, in case it helps, is … Sheila Waters.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
The UK government is ready to allow thousands of buffet-bothering VIPs into England without the need to quarantine, in order to stop the Euro Not 2020 final being moved from Wembley to some Viktor Orban vanity-dome in Budapest.
Spain captain Sergio Busquets has rejoined the squad after testing negative for Covid.
Frank de Boer has been trying and failing to play down Netherlands’ chances of glory after his schekzy schide cruised into the last 16 with a 2-0 win over Austria. “I don’t want to talk about favourites,” he parped, before yelling: “I know at our best we can beat everybody!”
Denmark midfielder Kasper Hjulmand is also feeling good vibes despite the 2-1 defeat by Belgium. “We’re going to stick together and we’re going to beat the Russians. We’re not done in this competition,” he roared.
Ukraine are just glad to have three points on the board after their 2-1 win over North Macedonia. “They told us North Macedonia will start attacking because they have nothing to lose,” tooted sponsor-loving captain Andriy Yarmolenko. “They made us nervous. We panicked a little bit.”
And Daniel James would love it, just love it, if Wales get something in Italy. “We’re underdogs, we’ve nothing to lose going there,” he blabbed. “We’ll just go in with our heads held high and truly believe we can go and win it.”
A decade after he left, Ashley Young is back at Aston Villa, arriving on a free from Inter. “When I heard of the interest, it was straight to my [Mr 15%]: ‘Get a deal done, whatever you can, get a deal done,’” he cheered.
Stop us if you think that you’ve heard this one before, but … Spurs have broken off talks with latest managerial target Gennaro Gattuso, hours after he entered the fray with Paulo Fonseca’s planned arrival falling through.
And Jamaica striker Khadija Shaw is now Manchester City’s Jamaica striker Khadija Shaw.
STILL WANT MORE?
Scotland had personality in 1999 when they won at Wembley, not that it helped them avoid losing to England, as Ewan Murray found out.
England, Scotland and how the rivalry has changed … on and off the field. By Jonathan Liew.
Belgium heavily relied on their bench to beat Denmark, which is not very surprising when you can call upon Kevin De Bruyne, as Jonathan Wilson explains.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!