JOGI AND A BOO-BOO
When Jogi Löw announced three weeks ago that he would stepping down as Germany coach after this summer’s European Championships, few in his homeland shed too many salty tears. Despite masterminding their fourth World Cup victory and steering them towards the business end of other tournaments, the once-revolutionary 61-year old’s stock has plummeted further than an Oxo cube dropped from outer space – so much so that many of his compatriots would have been happy to bid him “auf wiedersehen” before this summer’s European jamboree even started.
“I have great respect for Joachim Löw’s decision,” roared FA suit Fritz Keller last month, pointedly not mentioning that the German still had more than two years left on his contract. “It is thoroughly decent of him to inform us of his decision early; he has given us the necessary time and space to appoint a successor.” Herr Keller is likely to have woken up on Thursday morning with a great deal more respect for Löw’s decision, if not Löw himself, following Germany’s surprise home defeat at the hands of North Macedonia in their Human Rights World Cup qualifier.
Having put the ignominy of their November Nations League disgrace against Spain behind them with an emphatic victory over Iceland and a laboured win over Romania, Germany undid all their good work against a country that, since changing its name two years ago, only sounds like a fraction of its former self. “This is bitterly disappointing,” lamented Löw. “We were not fresh enough, we made mistakes. When we played quickly we were dangerous but we did not find the tools to be really threatening.” Among the tools Löw did have at his disposal was Timo Werner and the less-than-sharp striker was brought on to help rescue his nation from embarrassment as a substitute. With the North Macedonia goal gaping, he proceeded to go more viral than a Scottish rugby commentator’s Labradors with a miss so astonishingly bad that even an opposing defender was seen to throw his hands to his head in stunned disbelief as the ball trickled wide.
“Most players from TV Dornholzhausen or SG Bissenberg would have looked better in that moment, even if they had a glass full of beer in their hand,” harrumphed Oliver Fritsch in Die Zeit, going so far as to compare the 25-year-old confidence vacuum to the German equivalent of a hungover Sunday League clogger. On the plus side for Timo, he may at least get the chance to put things some way right this weekend, when Chelsea host the top-flight Sunday League cloggers that are Big Sam’s West Brom. For Jögi, the future remains less clear but he remains in place for now.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We had a plan B and my staff were going to take charge of the game instead. It wouldn’t have made a big difference if I hadn’t made it” – Luis Enrique somewhat talks down his own import after almost missing Spain’s 3-1 win over Kosovo due to being trapped in a hotel lift for an hour before being rescued.
Come get some Football Weekly Extra.
“Re: Tim Lynch’s ennui concerning the over-familiarity of some of The Fiver’s stylings (yesterday’s Fiver letters). Predictability is the very essence of a catchphrase – indeed that quality alone has proved sufficient to launch at least one notable (though, with hindsight, slightly problematic) career in comedy, the writing of children’s books and then proto-national treasure. The Fiver just wouldn’t be the same without them, just as – even though it’s a dreadful piece of ancient cheese – Saturday nights just wouldn’t be right without the raucous tootling of the Match of The Day theme” – Steve Allen.
“Stephen Kenny is trying to modernise the way O’Ireland play, but now he’s discovering the hard way that there hasn’t been any real quality in the side since around 2002. I fear the same might happen if The Fiver takes Tim Lynch’s advice about updating its jokes” – Bernard O’Leary.
“Reading Tim’s letter surprised me because he was reading The Fiver … and looking for ‘more creativity’. Any would be a start! I’m off to discuss creativity with Stephen Kenny over some Tin” – Bobbie Isabel Davis.
“Got to love Tim pleading for a bit of creativity from The Fiver, only to be followed by a missive issued by Noble Francis” – Jim Hearson (and others).
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Bernard O’Leary.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Yeovil captain Lee Collins has died at the age of 32. “Lee sadly passed away yesterday and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” said the club.
New research suggests home teams still retain a statistical advantage, even when games are played behind closed doors. “I was always convinced that me being at the games and supporting the team, at least changed something, sometimes,” sighed Prof Matthias Weigelt of Paderborn University. “But what can you do? It is science and the large data set of more than 40,000 games, [in] the study, cannot be ignored.”
Erling Haaland’s Mr 20%, Mino Raiola, has held talks with Barcelona after meeting Dortmund earlier this week to discuss their asking price for the striker this summer.
England manager Gareth Southgate is chuffed to bits that John Stones helped atone for his error in their 2-1 HRWC qualifying win over Poland. “The pleasing thing was John regained his composure quickly, recovered in the game and thankfully had an important part in the winning goal,” he cheered.
Adrian ‘Aidy’ Boothroyd thinks England have some soul-searching to do after another premature booting from the U-21 Euros. “I’m confident I know what I’m doing for this job,” he honked. “We should look a bit closer at ourselves and examine where we can get better.” The Fiver thinks it knows where they could start.
Former Bayern president Uli Hoeness wants Germany to pull its finger out over Covid vaccinations. “It’s a matter of fighting against a disease we haven’t experienced before and so we must stand together,” he tooted. Vaxx, yes. Taxx, er …
And Sergio Ramos is a doubt for Real Madrid’s Big Cup tie against Liverpool due to calf-twang. That sound you may hear over the coming days is thousands of Big Cup preview pieces being shredded.
STILL WANT MORE?
The Euro 2020 power rankings are a curious thing. Make a one man weep (Jogi Löw), make another man sing (Bobby M).
In the first of a new Women’s Super League series, Lydia Williams, the Arsenal and flamin’ Australia goalkeeper, says she’d “love to inspire the next generation of Indigenous athletes”.
Roberto Baggio and Andrea Pirlo against Alessandro Del Piero and Zinedine Zidane: Juventus 1-1 Brescia in 2001. Emmet Gates remembers the Divine Ponytail’s greatest goal.
The very much misunderstood Raheem Sterling was a lone attacking spark amid England’s sludge against Poland, writes Barney Ronay.
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