ALWAYS BELIEVE IN GOLD
Sometimes Weird Uncle Fiver gazes meaningfully at nothing in particular, emits a wistful sigh, followed by a long belch, and declares that there is more to football than punch-ups and race wars. There is also, he says, football. Then he emits a long belch, followed by a wistful sigh, and flicks on the TV. Sure enough, at least 17 channels are showing action of players kicking a ball hither and thither with varying degrees of accuracy. In some cases it’s just archive footage – the Wrexham-Walsall clash from the preliminary round of the 1987 Sherpa Vans Trophy, say, or maybe the 1960 European Cup melée between Real Madrid and Barcelona, when English referee Reg Leafe produced a man-of-the-match performance by disallowing four Real goals for reasons never adequately ventilated.
Sometimes the footage is live. This week, for instance, Weird Uncle Fiver was pleasantly surprised to find that the end of Euro Not 2020 did not draw the curtain on continental competition: there’s still plenty more thrills and intrigue to come because the CONCACACACACACACACAF Gold Cup is under way. Hurrah! Who will win it? The 97-times champions Mexico or the 58-times champions USA! USA!! USA!!! or, um, Qatar? Well, why not? Having appeared as guests at the 2019 Copa América and shadowed the likes of Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in the qualifiers for EN 2020, the private estate from the Arabian peninsula has sent a team to the Gold Cup as part of its continuing preparations for next year’s Human Rights World Cup, which it is due to host in a golden air-conditioned laboratory.
Anway, the football. The thing here is, Qatar’s team is pretty good. They already proved that by winning the last Asian Cup and served further evidence by beating Luxembourg during their jaunt around Europe, albeit before suffering a shock draw with the Republic O’Ireland. But they got their Gold Cup campaign off to an encouraging start on Tuesday when they rattled three goals past Panama, who hit back every time as a game that started slowly finished up as an attacking extravaganza. Afterwards Panama’s manager admitted his charges were glad to escape with a point. “Even though the game was almost lost, the players never gave up,” cheered Thomas Christiansen, who once had an eight-minute spell in charge of Leeds United. “The truth is, I am very happy.”
So the tournament is well and truly up and running, even if the favourites have made a sluggish start: after drawing with Trinidad & Tobago in their opening match, Mexico face Guatemala later this week needing a much better performance. Meanwhile, the USA! USA!! USA!!!, who began their campaign with a 1-0 win over Haiti, take on Martinique in a match that is already being billed as something to watch if you’ve nothing else to do.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“If the Tories gave a toss about racism they would suspend the MP who heckled and shouted about [Tyrone Mings] from membership of the [Conservatives]” – Angela Rayner responds after Tory MPs shouted out ‘Labour member’ in parliament when Keir Starmer mentioned the England player’s response to Priti Patel. Yep, that’s where we’re at.
“Further to Graham Humphrey’s suggestion that we reopen the old penalty shootout debate (yesterday’s Fiver letters), my preferred solution would be as follows. If no goals are scored in 120 minutes: go to penalties. If scores are level (with goals) after 120 minutes: award game to the first side to score during the first 90 minutes. If 0-0 after 90 minutes and say, 1-1, 2-2 etc after 120 minutes: award game to the side with best disciplinary record over the course of the tournament (red cards 3 points, yellow cards 1 point) and if still equal, then on the disciplinary record countback starting from the final. If the teams still can’t be separated, then go to penalties. To my mind this would: a) encourage attacking football from the start of the game (and potentially in extra-time too); b) encourage fair play throughout; and c) only use penalties as a true last resort. Oh and d) England win Euro Not 2020! It has come home” – Allastair McGillivray.
“Why not have a corners countback in the event of a stalemate AET? Corners are an index of which team is attacking more, and knowing they could determine the result would encourage defenders to keep the ball in play. Now, about abolishing the offside law …” – Trevor Townson.
“My proposal is for one of the teams to keep the trophy for half the time before the next tournament – ie two years between World Cup or Euros – and then have a game at the halfway stage to determine which team gets to keep the trophy for the balance of the remainder of the period. Only if the ‘halfway’ stage game is drawn after extra time should it then go to penalties. It would mean that, after the original final, both sets of fans would go away happy and I would suggest emotions may not run as high” – Alan Mannings.
“In your picture on Monday, you had former England keeper Peter Shilton, all of six feet, next to Tom Cruise and showing very little height difference. Either Shilton has a bad case of osteoporosis, or he wasn’t that much taller than Diego Maradona, explaining how the Bantam of the Barrio got above him to fist in the Hand of God. Or was Cruise standing on Oprah’s couch?” – Paul Landaw.
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 … Paul Landaw.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Lincoln City boss Michael Appleton has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and is due to have the tumour removed this week. “This is quite a routine operation and the indications are that I should be back up and on my feet in no time,” he said.
Birmingham goalkeeper Neil Etheridge is in hospital receiving treatment for Covid-19.
Portsmouth are investigating allegations that members of their U18 squad directed racist abuse at the England players who missed penalties against Italy.
Harry Maguire says his dad damaged ribs in Sunday’s Wembley stampede. “It was scary – he was scared and I don’t want anyone to experience that at a football match,” said Maguire.
Maguire’s Manchester United and England teammate Marcus Rashford needs surgery on his shoulder-knack.
In an amazing turn-up for the books, Roberto Rosetti, chair of Uefa’s referees’ committee, has backed the decisions which saw Raheem Sterling earn a penalty against Denmark in England’s semi-final and Jorginho evade a red card for his tackle on Jack Grealish in the final.
And Arsenal are back, losing 2-1 to Hibs in a pre-season friendly after conceding a particularly slapstick opener.
STILL WANT MORE?
A GB team was expected to be a Big Sports Day one-off in 2012, but after missing out in Rio a squad will compete in Tokyo’s women’s competition. Here’s Suzy Wrack on a long and bumpy road.
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