We’ll be honest, it’s not every day we google the words “Rotherham Met Office”. But that was the Fiver’s first thought when The Man dispatched us to the Banter Bunker for a 90-minute stretch, presenting us brusquely with a list of tonight’s fixtures, a paper airplane for a fan and the outré and frankly unhelpful observation that “they had it worse in ’Nam”.
Tonight is the last round of group games at Euro 2022, with Iceland (Iceland! Iceland! The clue’s in the bloody name!) playing France at the cognitive dissonance-inducingly named New York Stadium in Rotherham. The temperature at kick-off will be around 35C – thrice the forecast for Reykjavik, and all the other parts of Iceland that nobody mentions in sentences like this, as if Iceland consisted of nothing but Reykjavik, Sigur Ros and effortlessly stylish facial hair, even on the septuagenarians.
The other Group D game between Italy and Belgium takes place at the Academy Stadium in Manchester, where that joke about the weather isn’t funny anymore. It’ll be 33C at kick-off. But Uefa remains hopeful that, amid all the hydration breaks, a football match will break out.
We hope so, because this has the potential to be one of those dramatic nights when the as-it-stands table does laps. Two simultaneous games, three teams with a credible chance of claiming the last quarter-final place: expect more twists and turns than a contrived analogy about M Night Shyamalan and pretzels.
The Fiver’s brain was in danger of melting even before we started to look at the permutations. France are through as group winners, and will play the Netherlands, the holders, in a humdinger of a quarter-final in New York on Saturday. The other three teams are competing for the right to probably, no offence, lose to Sweden at Leigh Sports Village on Friday. That’s kind of by the by: for all three teams, but especially Belgium, qualifying for the quarter-finals is an end in itself.
Iceland have two points, Belgium and Italy one. Iceland will be through if they beat France, but that’s unlikely. If it doesn’t happen, either of Belgium or Italy will go through with a win. Where it really starts to swell the noggin is if – and this is hardly beyond the realms – Iceland lose and the other two draw. In that scenario, a 0-0 would put Iceland through (don’t ask us to explain, this is hard enough as it is) and a 2-2 draw or higher would put Belgium through.
If it finishes 1-1, Belgium and Iceland would be split by overall goal difference, then goals scored, then a sudden-death spelling bee in which players on each side have to spell the word “canicular”. Confused? Splendid. Now all we need are the three digits on the back of the card.
If we’ve cocked up these permutations – and this is hardly beyond the realms – you can blame it on the heat, and The Man. Any chance of closing a window in here?
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE!
Join Rob Smyth from 8pm BST for MBM coverage of Iceland 1-4 France at Euro 2022, while Luke McLaughlin is on deck at the same time for Italy 1-0 Belgium.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“When you invest the kind of money that Chelsea did, you have to allow that player to play to his strengths. To ask Rome or any other top striker in the world to come to your club and play differently, and then not to perhaps communicate effectively with the player, makes it very challenging” – Roc Nation’s Michael Yormark tells Donald McRae what he makes of Chelsea’s treatment of Romelu Lukaku, the £97.5m asset they shipped out on loan a year later.
Get your ears around the latest edition of Football Weekly right here. The latest edition of Women’s Football Weekly is here.
Robert Lewandowski checks in at Barcelona.
“Whilst I shared in the general delight at Christian Eriksen’s amazing recovery and subsequent return to international and Premier League football, it was always a bit of a disconcerting feeling because I’m an Arsenal fan and he, well y’know, used to play for THEM. So, can I offer my heartfelt thanks to the lad for joining Manchester United and putting my mind back at ease. What with everything that’s going on I don’t have the intellectual or emotional capacity for nuanced feelings about footballers” – David Madden.
“The news that France are losing a player for the rest of the Women’s Euros is mentioned in the Fiver? Fair enough. The fact that the player is called Marie-Antoinette (Katoto) and there’s not a single reference to cake eating? Terrible. Why do I bother paying for the Fiv … Oh, never mind” – Stuart McLagan.
“Oleksandr Zinchenko strikes me as a man of strong principles. He seems willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even to Arsenal” – Peter Oh.
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 … Stuart McLagan.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Deliberate heading could be banned from football for children under 12 in England in two seasons’ time, the Football Association has announced.
The Milan midfielder, Tiémoué Bakayoko, was held at gunpoint by police in a case of mistaken identity. “As the police verified that he had nothing to do with what happened, they apologised and let him go,” said a Milan statement.
West Ham are leading the race to sign Armando Broja after the Albanian decided he no longer wishes to be a member of Chelsea’s loan army.
Meanwhile, Chelsea will not be signing Matthijs de Ligt. He’s joining Bayern Munich instead in an €80m deal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has signed a new one-year-contract with Milan at the age of 72 despite facing the next eight months out after knee surgery.
Mid-life crisis’s José Mourinho has been showing off new ink, his bicep now commemorating his status as the only manager to have won Big Cup, Euro Vase and Tin Pot. To add further joy, Roma are set to sign Paulo Dybala on a free transfer.
The Pope’s O’Rangers have been drawn to meet Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in their Big Cup qualifier. Who? Brighton owner Tony Bloom is the Belgian club’s majority owner.
Inter Miami want to sign Lionel Messi. “In terms of Leo Messi, there’s him and then there’s everyone else,” roared chief suit Xavier Asensi in looking ahead to a Messi-Pippin Neville dream alliance.
STILL WANT MORE?
Floating football brain in a jar Jonathan Wilson relays word that the ruthless Lionesses’ Euros 8-0 looks less of a freak result than past thrashings.
Never mind 8-0 canters … England will have to be at their best without the ball in Wednesday’s Women’s Euros quarter-final against Spain, toots Karen Carney.
Louise Taylor reckons lashing Lucy Bronze into midfield is less square-peggy than other options. Plus! Tim Lewis on the most potent Mead outside a medieval monastery.
Time will tell if Erik ten Hag’s dogged pursuit of Frenkie de Jong ends up worth the long, tedious dance, yawns Jamie Jackson.
The whole pre-season “festival of football” in Australia is all well and good, but the A-League ain’t getting much out of it, fingerwags Paul Williams.
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July 18, 2022 at 09:40PM Rob Smyth