FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES
Scotland are off somewhere or maybe nowhere
Whatever happens Scotland have qualified for it. Whatever it may be. It, of course, could be the tournament that never happens but Steve Clarke and his Scotland team have ended a 22-year wait for qualification for a major tournament.
And what does it mean? Well, if Ryan Christie's post-match interview after their penalty shootout play-off win against Serbia is anything to go by, a lot:
This is an amazing night. I think from the start we believed, the last couple of camps we've picked up so much belief from each other. Conceding that late equaliser, digging in, [and then] it's penalties away from home and Big Marshy coming up again. Unbelievable. Those penalties are probably the hardest thing I've ever been through. The whole nation (have had it tough) and we knew that going in. It's been a horrible year for everyone and we knew we could give a little something for this country. I hope everyone back home has a party tonight. It's a monkey off our back.
Not a single whiff of media training and you love to see it.
It was an evening of pure theatre as Scotland were joined in the final 24 by Hungary, who beat Iceland, North Macedonia, who beat Georgia, and Slovakia who down Northern Ireland.
Let's be honest here, international football can be complete and utter garbage. In fact, 80 per cent of it is garbage. However, if football fans can't accept it at its worst - dross football and players dropping like flies with unnecessary injuries - then they don't deserve it at its best - penalty shootout tension, glory and heartbreak.
Clarke: We knew we had control and it paid off
Kroos comes for Auba gets sub-tweeted by Ozil - it's definitely international week
Turns out actual footballers - elite-level footballers - find the monotony of international week well monotonous. For that surely can be the only reason Toni Kroos took exception to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrating a goal.
Yes, Kroos, a man whose taste in all things pop culture is beyond reproach, took exception to Aubameyang donning a mask here or there.
This is what Kroos had to say:
Aubameyang once celebrated and took out a mask. That's where it ends with me. I don't think that's a good role model either. What nonsense.
This is factually incorrect as Aubameyang has got the mask out on more than one occasion, and facts matter. For example, by whatever measure that may be selected as your weapon of choice Robbie Williams is factually not the greatest entertainer of this time or anytime. Nope.
Anyway, Auba hit back, which is his right to do of course, and it ended up in the following rather bizarre exchange:
All very testy.
And in the middle of all that Mesut Ozil came in with some sublime sub-tweeting. Genuinely sublime.
There might of course be more than meets the eye behind this glorious sub-tweet and, if there is, then the Warm-Up is all for it.
An actual uplifting story
2020 has been an absolute pit of a year. So a feel-good story, any feel-good story needs promotion and this is some feel-good story. North Macedonia are heading to Euro 2020.
To contextualise the achievement the Warm-Up loaded up the FIFA World Rankings, sponsored by the good people of Coca-Cola, and then remembered that they are an utter nonsense. Belgium in at one? Nah. Ireland are the 36th best team in the world? On Thursday's showing, they aren't the 36th best team in Ireland. Scotland 45th? Come on now. We are edging towards the singularity and FIFA can't get hold of an algorithm that ranks national teams in some sort of order. A disgrace.
Anyway, rant over, and back to North Macedonia. They were led to a first-ever finals appearance by 37-year-old talisman Goran Pandev. The Genoa forward hit his 26th goal for his country in his 114th game to seal progression courtesy of a 1-0 win against Georgia.
They will face Austria, the Netherlands and Ukraine in Group C at Euro 2020, which is a toughish group but Pandev will care little and will now bring the curtain down on his career with a first-ever appearance at a major finals.
Stephen Kenny needs time and patience
As alluded to above, Ireland were bad against England. Real bad. However, patience is needed with the Stephen Kenny regime. It is clear, abundantly clear, that he is trying to engender a complete change of culture. That feat is difficult enough at club level where coaches such as Kenny have the opportunity to drill these changes in to their players on a daily basis.
Kenny has a few days every couple of months to try to make these changes. It is a long process. The FAI need to recognise that. Granted Ireland have not won in six and only scored one goal in that period, but the appointment of Kenny - first as U21 boss for a two-year period before taking over the senior reins - pointed to a desire for a complete overhaul of Irish football. There is no quick fix.
This is a few days old. However, it represents a fairly timeless piece of writing. Perhaps football has been asking the wrong question for far, far too long and, if so, how many exceptional talents have been discarded far, far too early.
No international football. Tears. However, there is a brand new column coming to the website. It is excellent. There is also the Linz Open and European Track Cycling. Glorious.