TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES
Spain spent so much time convincing Aymeric Laporte to become Spanish, they forgot to dedicate resource to trying to find Alvaro Morata a new nationality.
UEFA Nations League
'Nobody understands Enrique's choices' - Why Spain is divided ahead of Italy clash
There are those players who are permanently fixed with an alarmed expression, their brains working overtime to ruin their big moment. While the Warm-Up is often plagued with the unhelpful (but probably true) “nothing you write is funny or insightful”, at least we are spared our torment unfolding live on TV in millions of homes.
When the ball bounced kindly in the penalty area during the first half of Spain v Sweden, Morata looked destined to score. Any professional footballer would dream of this chance. His brain had other ideas: “You’re useless and no one believes in you.” One second later, he had played a delightful pass to the advertisement board.
It must be odd, knowing an immensely talented footballer, and a completely dreadful one, is wrapped up in your one body. Schrödinger's Spaniard, perhaps. You don’t get to be Spain’s main striker without bags of ability, nor play for Real Madrid, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. Give him a chance when there’s not a split-second to think and we would back him to score most of the time.
Morata is not solely to blame for the goalless draw. Gerard Moreno came off the bench to remind us why Morata is top dog, missing an even easier chance in the last minute, while Marcus Berg blew the pick of the bunch – and he was playing for Sweden. But neither of them have a face that screams “football makes me miserable” and nothing tempts you to click on a story quite like a miserable face.
Had we not watched the game, this would be a good point to praise Sweden for a resolute and heroic display. Did you see Victor Lindelof? Outstanding. The problem is that we actually did see Victor Lindelof, and his contemporaries, and he was anything but outstanding. Robin Olsen was terrific in goal – and by terrific we mean he made one good save, then had the ball blasted at him – but it could have easily been 5-0. Fortunately for Victor Lindelof (it just doesn’t sound right without the first name-surname combo), UEFA didn’t watch the game and named him man of the match.
The upshot is that Sweden will still crash out of Euro 2020 long before the business end. But Spain might just be able to put a run together, if they can find the switch for Morata's brain.
Scotland, what a tournament
When Scotland fail to qualify for Euro 2040 – their 10th tournament in a row supporting anyone but England – they can always recall the glorious summer of 2021.
They will always have those 41 unadulterated minutes where everything felt possible: Flower of Scotland echoing around Hampden Park, Andy Robertson as prime Roberto Carlos, fans scrambling around to get tickets to the semi-finals. Which is a kind way of saying that the Scots are already out of the tournament after defeat to Czech Republic.
“We didn’t come here for a learning experience but obviously if we have to learn lessons from it that’s what we’ll do,” manager Steve Clarke said. “We came here to be competitive and I think we were. Sometimes a football match doesn’t go your way and today was that day.”
The lesson learnt? Don’t lose to Czech Republic when England and Croatia are also in your group, even with the nonsense places-for-almost-everyone-in-the-last-16 rule. (Expecting to see copies of this article plastered across the dressing room walls for motivation. Steve, you’re welcome)
IN OTHER NEWS
Evidence: Haaland is off to Man City
Or Riyad Mahrez is off to Borussia Dortmund.
The Norwegian (wearing summer pyjamas) and Algerian were filmed ‘partying’ together – aka swinging tea towels over their heads in an empty bar in Mykonos. Make of that what you will.
IN THE CHANNELS
End the search. Stop the count. We have a winner in the coveted Most Underwhelming Commentary Moment In History category.
Anyone still convinced that Patrik Schick's strike is not actually all that? Here's a look from another, more revealing angle...
Still not buying it? Just look at where the ball is in this photo and change your opinion immediately.
Patrick Schick's goal against Scotland
Image credit: Getty Images
Scotland had four unadulterated minutes on their last outing at a major tournament before it all went wrong. Relive the goals from their entertaining 2-1 defeat to Brazil below. Ahhh, Scotland v Brazil... Those were the days.
It's time for the Group of (Dea)F. Only two games, but we promise you it's worth sacrificing the 14:00 slot for these barnstormers. Hungary v Portugal (17:00) tees us up for France v Germany (20:00).
Marcus Foley is plagued with the knowledge that two completely dreadful footballers are trapped in his one body. Anyway, he's here tomorrow
Enrique reveals 'brilliant' Morata insisted on taking penalty despite injury
Key players, battles? Predictions? - Inside Europe on Italy v Spain