Prediction (with Gareth’s team – see below) *England 2-1 Serbia*
(With AJ’s team – see below) *England 5-2 Serbia*
The big day arrives for Mr Big. Who does he pick? To a modest football brain like my own (don’t worry, I haven’t lost it, I’m employing irony) the team picks itself.
Pickford in goal.
Back four needs to be solid, and I’d do go for Trent at right back, with the instruction to head into midfield when we have the ball. Gareth will go for Kyle Walker, though. Trent gives more attacking options, in my very humble opinion. On the left side of defence, I’d play Konsa. He can do a good job there, and if it is not working out, can move into the centre. The boss will, I’m sure, play safe and put Trippier in. Is that playing safe these days? Who knows?
Assuming he’s fit, Stones is a shoe in (Gareth will agree.) But I’d be brave, and accompany his with King Kyle. In the later stages, we might need to be more orthodox, but not yet. Plus, my plan gives us a good chance to look at options. Which we should do, given the disaster against Iceland.
Declan locks the midfield tight. Everybody is saying he’ll accompany the Arsenal legend with TAA, but I wouldn’t. Not all the time. Mr AA can move into midfield at times, but we need to score more goals, and that means two number tens. Jude can drop back if needed, and Foden is wasted on the left (where the boss will play him.) A fully fit Bukaya Saka and Harry Kane complete the line up.
The sporting treats of yesterday (and this morning) could be found in the Caribbean. Firstly, watching the rain and desperately hoping that it recedes enough to allow England to beat Namibia. It did and they did. Then, watching in disbelief as Scotland lead the Aussies. Are those from down under threatening to carry out their threat and eliminate England by losing to our friends from north of the border. It certainly looks so as they play and miss, and tap forward defensives to the fielders. Never trust an Aussie, that’s my motto.
Then, Head and Stoinis open up and in two overs it’s all over. Never in doubt.
*Results:*
*Spain 3-0 Croatia*
Day Two wasn’t a thrilling day football wise. The big one is Spain versus Croatia, not least because Michael Oliver is reffing, and our own Stuart Atwell is VAR. We’re expecting a big performance from the boys in blue.
Three minutes: Ollie Oliver blows his whistle for the first time. Correct call. He’s having a good one. The game starts as you’d expect, Spain doing the tricky stuff, Croatia soaking it up, wise experience defeating youthful dreams. The masters waiting to show the apprentices who is boss.
After just eight minutes a lovely bit of skill from Pongracic, a Cruyff turn in his own box, sends eight Spaniards the wrong way. Writing live, I wonder what odds I’ll get on a 2-0 to Croatia?
Although, Spain soon score three times, so I’m glad I didn’t put on money on the result.
*Switzerland 3-1 Hungary*
Jules is on the phone when I turnon Hungary v Switzerland. So it’s volume down, just like at a live game, except there’s more noise then. It’s already 2-0 to Switzerland. I thought kick off was at three, but it was two. Still, not too much point rewatching. I’ll catch the highlights later. But the great Clive is commentating. We’re in for a treat today. So here’s a few key moments from the second half.
Fifty minutes: great ball down the left from Hungary, now chasing the game. Good pull back but a wild shot is closer to the corner flag than the goal.
Fifty three minutes: A slick move from Switzerland ends in a precise shot from Xhaka, well saved.
Fifty Eight minutes: A poor free kick from Hungary’s own half gives the ball straight to Ndoye. He advances but shoots high from twenty yards.
*A sartorial word*. Whilst the Hungarians are neatly dressed in white, the Swiss red and maroon combination doesn’t work. Looks they were caught in a storm and onlyb their lower half got wet.
Sixty Three minutes: Excellent cross from Sallai, but Hungary’s number 19 Varga misses a free header from eight yards. Sir Clive esq pretty astonished by that one. But two minutes later Varga makes amends, this time scoring with a stooping header from three yards. Mr Tyldsley provides the valuable information that the striker has already netted four hat-tricks since the beginning of the season just gone. Essential stuff. Gosh, how we have missed the maestro of the airwaves.
Seventy Minutes: Azlai, who looks like he spends his weekends guarding Vladimir Putin, is booked hefting a winger out of play. In fact, conceding has focussed Swiss minds. They no longer look like a piece of extra holey Emmenthal, and have tightened up considerable.
With twenty minutes to go the question emerges, what’s the best result for Scotland? The answer is a draw, but Switzerland are now once again back on top.
Eighty five minutes: As the fourth Swiss player in the last five minutes goes down with cramp, we conclude that it’s either hot on one side of the pitch, the problem doesn’t seem to be impacting the Hungarians, or Switzerland are playing for time. Somehow that seems wrong from the Swiss.
Eighty six minutes: Poor reffing sees Switzerland through on goal before the man in the elegant shade of blue, the sort you expect to see adorning the walls of a Georgian Manor house, brings them back for a Swiss free kick.
*Sartorial Note Number 2*: Murat Yakin, the Switzerland manager, takes an early lead for the award of manager’s hairstyle most likely to get a part in a nineties cop show. Apparently, he’s a good friend of Roger Federer. You can guess where I heard that.
Nine one minutes: Switzerland through one on one with the keeper, but Rieder is forced too wide.
Ninety two minutes: Goal kick from Switzerland, poor header and Embolo pounces, lobbing the keeper from the edge of the box.
Man of the Match – Michel Aebischer (Switzerland)
So another game over by half time, although there was plenty to enjoy in the second period. Pity I missed the best of the action.
*Italy 2-1 Albania*
Italy are always going to beat Albania, and have the game wrapped up by the twelfth minute, although the east Europeans rattle a few nerves by scoring after 24 seconds. Still, that’s Italy’s defensive error over for the tournament.
If it goes on like this, it won’t be worth watching the second half. Shame.
Enjoy the game tonight. I’ll be watching with the boys. Who knows, even Jarrod (my eldest) might turn up to spend the evening watching the lads with his old dad. – AJ