IT’S THE EURO LAST EIGHT, BABY
“I have a vision that no one else has. I have a courage that probably no other coach had. You know what? Thank your lucky stars. I’m here. I’m here to stay And I will keep improving. I still have a long way to go but I think with the players we have and with my philosophy I think we can go a long way. I live and breathe it, and I never have a bad day.” Bill Shankley? Brian Clough? JockStein? No, actually it’s, uh, uh… Philip Neville – two months after his England team, a side who should have been world champions, meekly caved in the semi-finals, plagued by odd instructions, odd formations and inexplicable selections.
Seven months later, Big Phil was gone – although it was primarily his appointment that should raise questions. His coaching career began with England U-21 men in 2013 – they lost all three games at the European Championships – and continued at Manchester United when he joined Steve Round and Jimmy Lumsden in David Moyes’ telling Brain Trust. Indeed, Moyes and his boys were evicted from Old Trafford nine months after they arrived, so Neville moved to Valencia about a year later and served under Nuno Espírito Santo and then his brother Gary for the three months it took them to be sacked. That pedigree – 0 managerial games, 0 managerial achievements and 0 women’s football experience – got him the job in England, an appointment that would have been funny had it not come at the expense of a great group of players and reflects the ridiculous Privilege that infects football, sports and everything. But now look!
England used to have brilliant players with an untried manager who failed on talent; Now they have a brilliant team with a talented manager who bullies everyone with conviction. Before taking the job, Sarina Weigman had coached teams for the Dutch Championship, Eredivisie and KNVB Cup; won Euro 2017 with the Netherlands and was named FIFA’s best women’s coach; and reached the World Cup final. When England called, she wasn’t even qualified for the job – she was overqualified. Since then her side have won 15 and drawn two of their 17 games and played exciting and coherent football, scoring a staggering 98 goals – an average of 6.53 per game! – and an incredible three goals conceded – an average of .176 per game! They have earned their status as favorites for Euro 2022.
But now things are different. Although Spain are missing Alexia Putellas and Jenni Hermoso, their individual skills and possession-heavy style present a major test for England. But – unlike the men – they are not being managed by someone who happened to be there when nobody seriously wanted the job , but from the best person at it, who understands how to put a team together and balance it and won’t First signs of pressure, forget that they no longer manage Middlesbrough and their players aren’t good enough to compete in an open Match with everyone. That said, whatever happens from here – England are good enough to go all the way, but so are Spain and various other potential opponents – hopefully we’ve seen an innovation that’s lasting, that’s still elusive Innovation: The best jobs go to the best people. Now all we have to do is take the best game Everyone the people – the lack of diversity on both the England side and in the English system remains a problem – and we can be as proud of our sport as Phil Neville is of himself.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“My research revealed that the ball was kicked 132 milliseconds earlier than the participants noticed, which doesn’t sound like much, but in a fast game it could be long enough that the players are in a different location and therefore possibly the Changing results from offside” – Dr. Pooya Soltani from the University of Bath on her study assessing the accuracy of VAR and why it’s still not precise enough to make accurate judgments every time.
“With Erik ten Hag seeming to have put a backbone in Manchester United so far, we fans can sing ‘It’s just like seeing Brazil’ again, but with the bonus that Brazil isn’t the dystopian Terry Gilliam movie , the last nine years have bid high. Hopefully…” – Mark Charters.
“Gonzalo Higuaín’s poorly received comments about thinking he could play ‘with a cigarette in’ in MLS [his] Mouth’ makes a little more sense now that I see such behavior seems acceptable in Serie A” – Harriet Osborn.
“Fans of saxophone-based jazz standards will surely be disappointed that Real Sociedad’s signing didn’t earn the number five” – Noble Francis.
“Re: Fiver from yesterday. I am a Fulham season ticket holder. The match against Liverpool was completely sold out within minutes after the free tickets went online. And I suppose it would have been if the tickets had been £20 more expensive. Maybe even more. People are willing to pay to see top-flight football (er, Kloppball anyway). I wonder how many people would pay, say 25p, to read The Fiver tomorrow” – Alex Brown.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our free letter of the day is… Harriet Osborn.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Shay Asher, 24, has been banned from attending games for three years after he made a Nazi gesture towards Tottenham fans during their game at Newcastle last October.
Paulo Dybala has rocked at Roma after leaving Juventus on a free transfer. “The days that led to me signing this contract were filled with emotion,” he exulted, then sighed, then laughed, then cried.
Nottingham Forest has a salary structure and they’re not afraid to smash it to pieces for Jesse Lingard.
Halifax Town forward Jamie Allen has decided to take his goalscoring opportunities to Love Island, which hasn’t gone down well with his National League employers. “[Jamie has made] His intentions make it clear that the opportunity is very important to him,” growled a club tweet. “The matter will be reviewed upon his return.”
And Magnus Carlsen will have more time to devote to his fantasy football team after deciding not to defend his world title next year.
Jonathan Liew sets the scene for England vs Spain as Sid Lowe catches up La Rojais Aitana Bonmatí.
There was a sea of orange in Sheffield and Leigh, the German fan bus in West London and even a dose of Icelandic gossip in Rotherham. Sophie Downey hears about the Euro 2022 fan experiences.
For his new book How to Win the World Cup, Chris Evans spoke to the likes of Big Phil Scolari and Ottmar Hitzfeld about their experiences. Here is an excerpt.
Which is the best-performing team from the Big Cup qualifying rounds? The knowledge knows.
And if it’s your thing… you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT TOO!