The Fiver | As much chance of jumping out of the way as the Giant's Causeway
Norn Iron 1-0’s seething sense of injustice, Giorgio Chiellini v Pep and cuddly Roy Keane
THE (BAD) LUCK OF THE IRISH
Despite all Switzerland’s huffing and puffing on Thursday night, they seemed increasingly frustrated by their failure to blow Norn Iron 1-0’s Windsor Park fortress down. While enjoying 99% of the possession they seemed to be doing very little with it, so it was left to Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan to provide the vital assist that enabled them to leave Belfast with the precious away goal that separates the two sides before Sunday’s return leg.
Arguably Switzerland’s best player, Hategan had already proved instrumental in somehow failing to send off Fabian Schär for a scything fifth-minute challenge on Stuart Dallas. “So they think Miguel Britos’s challenge on Anthony Knockaert in Watford’s match against Brighton was bad,” the Swiss centre-back muttered to himself, before ordering Granit Xhaka to hold his beer. Later came the penalty, when Corry Evans was adjudged to have handled the ball when blocking a Xherdan Shaqiri pile-driver from point-blank range with the back of his shoulder, despite having both arms down by his sides and as much chance of jumping out of the way as the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that comprise the Giant’s Causeway.
“It is staggering to see,” said Norn Iron manager Michael O’Neill, who was rattled by the injustice of it all, not least because Evans was booked for his not-foul and will therefore miss the second leg in Basel/Basle/Baarrrllll as well. “The players are angry but we have to find a way to get a result on Sunday.” While the Fiver’s flute-tooting, sash wearing Norn Irish cousin No! No! No! No! No! We Want To Walk Down That Road was crying into his devil’s buttermilk, his southern knobbly stick-waving, green felt hat wearing counterpart Theme Pub O’Fiver could feel more than a little sympathy. After all, the Republic O’Ireland had a similar injustice visited upon them many moons ago when Thierry Henry double-dribbled like an out-of-form Harlem Globetrotter before teeing up William Gallas for a goal that ensured O’Ireland wouldn’t make it to the 2010 World Cup.
Still seething at the mere sight of the man in an expensive overcoat on Sky Sports Super Sundays, O’Ireland haven’t qualified for one since but will set about righting this grievous wrong over the next few days when they take on Denmark over two legs. In a difficult game to call, the one player on the field with a sprinkle of stardust in his boots could make all the difference and unfortunately for O’Ireland he happens to play for Denmark. “I think at some stage he might look back and realise that he hasn’t got everything out of the talent that he possessed, because he was naturally a really decent footballer, really decent,” said Martin O’Neill of Lord Nicklas Bendtner who, The Fiver hopes, will add to his list of career regrets by Tuesday.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Tune in at 7.45pm GMT for Simon Burnton’s minute-by-minute coverage of England 1-2 Germany in the meaningless friendly at Wembley and join Ben Fisher for updates on Sweden 1-1 Italy in the meaningful World Cup play-off first leg in Stockholm.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Guardiolismo has ruined many Italian defenders a bit – now defenders know how to set the tone of play and they can spread the ball, but they don’t know how to mark. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is. When I was young, we used to do drills to get a feel for the man you were marking. Nowadays, from crosses, Italian defenders – and I can only really talk for Italian defenders – don’t mark their man. It’s a great pity because we’re losing our DNA a bit and some of those characteristics which had made us excel in the world” – Giorgio Chiellini puts his union cap on, and puts the blame squarely on Pep for turning centre-backs into dithering wrecks in recent years.
Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap. Subscribe to The Recap? Subscribe to The Recap.
SUPPORT THE GUARDIAN
Producing the Guardian’s thoughtful, in-depth journalism – the stuff not normally found in this email, obviously – is expensive, but supporting us isn’t. If you value our journalism, please support us by making a one-off or recurring contribution.
“I read yesterday’s bits and bobs about Brad Friedel. Many moons ago I was on my way to a shift at a well known burger emporium (assistant manager I’ll have you know). I stopped for petrol and as I filled up saw that the bloke opposite me was Blackeye Rovers goalkeeper Brad Friedel. He saw me staring and I blurted out ‘Aren’t you Brad Friedel?’ He responded immediately with ‘That’s right and aren’t you Marten Allen?’ Gobsmacked I stammered ‘How, how did you know?’ Brad smiled and pointed at my chest: ‘It’s on your name badge’” – Marten Allen.
“Not one to want to burst Chris Coleman’s bubble (though more likely one of 1,057 who do), but the China Cup only started in 2017, so technically Coleman is correct that Wales would never have been asked three or four years ago, but then neither was anyone else. The one ‘positive’ that I foresee is that the honour of winning the China Cup may not be enough to prevent an outbreak of knack and twang in the Wales squad. Perhaps this is the break needed to allow The Fiver’s long-lost cousin Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Fiver to finally get a call up” – Scott Henderson.
“G’day from Down Under, ya flamin’ Fiveroos. Your reporting on the Sheilaroos’ latest cultural cringeworthiness was excellent, barring a couple of minor details: Network 10 is the channel, not the show (which is called The Project); it’s on in the early evening, not late night; and it’s a general current affairs show, not a sport show. Sorry to nitpick. Righto, I’m off to watch popular mid-afternoon presenter Phillip Schofield’s new gardening series ITV” – Mike Hopkin.
“At least Frank Joyce (yesterday’s Fiver Letters) can point to kidney stones-arrrrggggggghhhhh as an explanation for his Fiver backlog. I have an email folder containing 89 unread editions of the Fiver, all received between mid-January to mid-August this year. Unlike Frank, I didn’t have any time off work. Depressingly, I was just too busy to read them and there is likely no chance of me catching up any time soon. Nevertheless, still I cling on to that folder in the faint hope that one day I might, much like the way that Taxpayers FC fans are clinging onto the faint hope that David Moyes-out might not be that bad. P.S. I’d take kidney stones for nearly three months of paid vacation” – Ben Graham.
“The comic is Justice League of America (yesterday’s Fiver Letters). No promotion or relegation as each team just moves to a new location every three to five years in Justice League USA! USA!! USA!!! with intermittent attempts to poach Detroit City’s fanbase” – Ken McCarron.
Send your letters to [email protected]. And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Marten Allen, who wins a copy of the excellent new David Squires book, The Illustrated History of Football: Hall of Fame. We’ve one more to give away, so keep typing.
BITS AND BOBS
Nobody will be watching England v Germany but Emre Can hopes someone tunes in, otherwise all his efforts will be for nothing. Or something like that.
One man who won’t be at Wembley is Jack Butland, whose broken fingaaaarrrggh! will not only keep him out of that game, but out of all games until Christmas.
Things must be grim for Scotland: they can’t even beat continent-wide punchline Holland, Memphis Depay scoring the only goal in their meaningless friendly in Glasgow.
The Premier League has announced a three-year partnership with Stonewall to encourage LGBT participation and stop homophobic abuse in the game, which can only be a good thing.
Do you know how or why ‘LFC’ ended up being carved on the side of a Shropshire hill in 100 metre high letters? Neither does Ordnance Survey, but they’ve definitely nipped one solution in the bud. “I think we can safely rule out aliens on this occasion,” nanoo-nanooed a spokesman.
In referee reassignment news, official Ben Toner has been shifted off duty for Portsmouth’s trip to Blackpool this weekend because of “increased attention” surrounding the game. The game has been given to the erm, safe hands of Premier League whistle-peeper Jon Moss.
And Xavi has announced that he will retire from football at the end of the season, a surprise to everyone who thought that happened some time ago.
This way will lie Football Weekly Extraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Should also mention that last handful of tickets are available for this.
STILL WANT MORE?
Apparently Roy Keane is just a big old cuddly softy. That’s according to Shay Given, who gets his chat on with Louise Taylor about all things Keano, Republic O’ Ireland and the World Cup.
How many chances do you think you’ve had to become a god? Leo Messi is down to his last shot, according to the lively Argentina fans that our pals from Copa 90 spoke to about the 2018 World Cup.
In today’s turn-up-for-the-books news, apparently Nigel Pearson is a staunch Remainer. For that and more surprising revelations, read Stuart James’s interview with the OH Leuven manager.
Barney Ronay noticed that most of the players Fifa regarded as The Best were old, creaking and don’t play in the Premier League. To redress the balance, he selects a team of some rather younger sorts that do.
The USA! USA!! USA!!!’s NASL used to be good for incongruous stars and that photo of Shep Messing in the nude, but these days it’s eating the dust of MLS. Jeff Rueter has a look at where it all went wrong.
You remember Mustapha Hadji, right? He’s now Morocco assistant manager, and our boy Ed Aarons had a chat with him before their World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast on Saturday, from which they need a mere point to qualify
Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!