TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES
We all want Denmark to win it
Oh football, why did we doubt you? Just as we had become accustomed to pretend celebrations and cardboard fans, Andreas Christensen wound up his right boot and unleashed a thunder blaster for all of Denmark.
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Limbs were launched vertically, substitutes and coaches scampered to be part of the bundle, commentators strained to be heard over 23,000 raucous fans. This was the football we knew and loved.
Christian Eriksen's collapse reminded us all that football doesn't really matter – that many things, thrown up by the unpredictability of life, are more important. And yet sport retains the power to move and unite, to haul you out of your personal troubles for a brief escape. And for 90 beautiful minutes in Copenhagen, with the Danes' best player firmly in their minds, it did just that.
Next time there's a bid to host the European Championship, hopefully in a pandemic-free world, can we request to have multiple host cities again please? It's not often you see an atmosphere as fervent as Parken Stadium during an international tournament – and that was only with 65% capacity.
Denmark are now four wins from the most unlikely of triumphs, having been adopted as everyone's new favourite team. Wales, we don’t know what you’ve done wrong, but absolutely no one wants you to win your last 16 match in Amsterdam.
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Who are you and what have you done with the real Frank de Boer?
The evidence was compelling. Frank de Boer had guided Ajax to consecutive failures in the Eredivisie, then was sacked after 85 days at Inter Milan. It got more rotten. Jose Mourinho branded him the "worst manager in the history of the Premier League" (an accolade they now share) after Crystal Palace binned the Dutchman off after just five games, before he rounded out his misery by losing all three games with Atlanta United in the presumably prestigious MLS's Back Tournament.
But it turns out that De Boer is a real narrative buster. After we all wrote off his Netherlands side ahead of Euro 2020, 10% due to the absence of Virgil van Dijk and 90% because of him, they have turned on the style to emerge as the tournament's most exciting – and productive – team. Sorry Italy.
However, a world where De Boer is a successful manager poses a problem. How many failures is a manager allowed before they succeed? If the benchmark is four, then who else have we cancelled too soon? Perhaps it's time for Steve McClaren to have another go at England. Maybe Arsenal's malaise could be ended by the finest candidate of them all, Tony Adams. Perhaps this is why desperate chairmen repeatedly turn to Mark Hughes, knowing that success is eventually inevitable.
Anyway, the Dutch will face a third-placed team in the last 16 in Budapest. Should they progress, Wales or Denmark would await in the quarter-finals. On all available evidence, there is no outstanding team at this tournament. So why can't De Boer do it?
On behalf of every England fan – what you’re not all rooting for England?! – please, please, please obey the following instructions:
- Start Jack Grealish, Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho in attack
- Get Jude Bellingham in midfield
- Thrash the Czechs
England's woes extend beyond the pitch too. They might be without Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, who were forced into self-isolation after a saucy-sounding “interaction” with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour. England must beat the Czech Republic to top Group D and land the top prize of, err, a meeting with either France, Germany, Portugal or Hungary. Maybe ignore our above demands, Gareth.
IN OTHER NEWS
Did you miss me?
Quite how we’ve got a third of the way through an international tournament without writing VAR HOWLER ALERT is mind-blowing, given how eager it is to interfere with perfectly good moments.
How this ‘goal’ from Romelu Lukaku is offside is completely beyond us, but everything that needs to be said about VAR has already been said. We know it’s trash. You know it’s trash. Everyone knows it’s trash.
Then again, even the trash can smell good occasionally. And we won’t deny that the only antidote to VAR’s horror show is the glorious sight of supporters at another game finding out their celebrations were premature. Even those supporters were Danish.
The beauty of this England squad is that Beardsley and Platt have many potential incarnations. Jack Grealish, Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho are the obvious candidates to provide more thrust and tip the balance from six defensive and four offensive players to five and five (Bellingham, notably, is able to provide just about every midfield function and has the ‘legs’ to go box to box.)
We used to apologise for pointing you in the direction of other Eurosport articles. But now why would we send you to substandard content elsewhere? We’ve made the unavoidably excellent signing of Paul Hayward for the Euros – bigger than any £100m move for Harry Kane – and he returned ahead of England v Czech Republic.
We spin the heroes & villains roulette wheel again as England play Czech Republic (20:00). Scotland can qualify with victory over Croatia (20:00), while Group E also wraps up with Sweden v Poland and Slovakia 0-0 Spain (17:00).
Marcus Foley wanted Denmark to lose. So avoid tomorrow's Warm-Up at all costs.
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