THIS IS ENGLAND
England’s footballers weren’t the only folk to spend Sunday undertaking what is known in the trade as a “recovery session”. While Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and chums spent the day happily gadding about on inflatable unicorns in a St George’s Park swimming pool, many of their fans were involved in hydrotherapy of a different kind, lorrying back gallons of water to alleviate the symptoms of hangovers brought on by excessive carousing while watching their Brave Boys put Ukraine to the sword with a minimum of fuss in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Fabled for his love of “footer”, prime minister and man of the people Boris Johnson was quick to offer his congratulations to England’s footballers for their “outstanding performance”, having appeared to be fine with their own fans booing them for making gestures in support of equality. Shamelessly joining him on the vote-grabbing bandwagon, Priti Patel was similarly gushing in her praise and announced #itscominghome, presumably subject to intensive border checks to determine “it” is entitled to be here in the first place. Appalled by the home secretary’s cynical hypocrisy, one user on social media disgrace Twitter was quick to point out that if she had been in office when the parents and grandparents of many of England’s players tried to make new lives in the country, only three of them would have been here to make Gareth Southgate’s starting XI.
Sobered up but still drunk on the glorious improbability of being able to feel totally relaxed for the final 30 minutes of a major tournament knockout game in which their team was playing, England fans must now prepare for a semi-final on Wednesday night against Denmark. Back at Wembley they will face a team who are living a dream of their own following a start to the tournament that could scarcely have been more nightmarish. Likely to provide a sterner test than exhausted Ukrainians who had clocked up more air miles than a Qantas pilot on overtime, the Danes will be hoping to put an end to England’s spectacular run of five consecutive clean sheets. With the in-form Kasper Dolberg and Yussuf Poulsen among their ranks they may very well do so.
“I don’t want to be a party pooper but we don’t stop here,” blabbed Harry Maguire, immediately after German referee Felix Brych had blown his final whistle on the stroke of 90 minutes in an act of mercy for Ukraine. “We want to go further than we did at the World Cup. It’s hard to soak it all in when you have another big one coming up. The dressing room will be a great atmosphere but then tomorrow morning we will wake up and be focused again. This group of players are not settling for a semi-final. We want to go further, we have to rest and recover.” As have the fans, many of whom have little more than 48 hours to prepare for the next onslaught.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
It’s a rest day but get your live Euro Not 2020 fix in our rolling news blog here.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Nah, man … No way. Hahaha! I’m not even thinking about it. Nah” – Spain’s César Azpilicueta is tickled by Ballon d’Or talk and more in this chat with Sid Lowe.
“Uninspiring qualifying stage capped with a goalfest? Check. Beat Croatia in extra-time? Check. Quarter-final win on penalties? Check. Only one game won in regular time? Check. Spain are shamelessly copying Portugal’s 2016 strategy to win EN 2020. Ronaldo should sue. I fully expect Spain to now win the final by beating France in extra-time” – Peter Van.
“Not sure if your correspondent Frank Chibundu Agu has been on the Tin early (Friday’s letters), or someone at Fiver Towers has podgy typing fingers, but your win rate for predicting scores is a marginally less atrocious 39.39% based on getting 13 results right for 33 games – not the 33.39% as reported. At least get the maths right with pointless letters” – Paul Mills (and no others).
“Thank you John Milce (Friday’s letters) for guidance to find a local Morris dancing ‘side’ to me in New South Wales. Much as I have always had a soft spot for those cheerful chaps in bowler hats with bells and sticks, conjugal relations with my dearly beloved seem overall a better way to go” – Tim Allen [no need to brag – Fiver Ed].
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 … Peter Van.
The latest edition of EN 2020 Football Daily is here for your ears.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Uefa will “investigate and clarify the issue” after a Danish fan’s rainbow flag was confiscated by match stewards in Baku. “We never instructed stewards to confiscate rainbow flags,” a statement droned.
Covid-19 is the secret to England’s success, according to Sam Allardyce, the predecessor who laid such hefty foundations for Gareth Southgate. “I think certainly the cancellation of the Euros last year has done England proud in terms of an extra year where these younger players have developed even more,” roared Sam in a cosy GMB chat with Richard Madeley.
Italy will train on the pitch at Barnet’s Hive stadium as Uefa want to preserve the Wembley pitch. Left-back Leonardo Spinazzola has left the camp and flown to Finland for surgery on his Achilles knack.
Italy will receive only 125 tickets for their semi-final with Spain, and just 1000 if they reach the final. “You understand that these are strong limitations if we want to give a sense of belonging to this game,” wailed chief Azzurri suit Gabriele Gravina.
And the winners of Euro Not 2020 may find themselves in a one-off showdown against the Copa América champions, in new meddling plans to replace the Confederations Cup.
NON EUROS BUSINESS
Spurs’ new managing director, Fabio Paratici, wants Harry Kane to stay at the club and “can’t wait to watch him play live. He’s a complete player, really special,” the Italian cooed.
There’s a new Crystal Palace sheriff in town – and his name’s Patrick Vieira.
And Manchester United bean counters have £25.7m ready to shove across the table for teenage Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga.
STILL WANT MORE?
Go go, Power Rankings!
Marcus Christenson has been spying on Denmark to bring you this scouting report.
Nick Ames gets his chat on with Nikos Dabizas and other members of the unfancied Greece side who only went and won Euro 2004.
England are playing like a cheese-dream … but the performances are real, toots Jonathan Liew.
Revitalised Harry Kane has oiled England’s gears, writes Barney Ronay while Luke Shaw stuck it to José, reckons Jacob Steinberg.
And here’s David Hytner on how England’s four “tribal elders” – Hendo, Raheem and the Harrys – have helped make them a force again.
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!