MONDAY’S BIG HEADLINES
England set new goal records as Euro 2020 beckons
Gareth Southgate’s England haven’t attracted a ‘Great Entertainers’ label yet but they can’t be far off earning the dubious honour bestowed on Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle. Sunday’s 4-0 win over Kosovo showcased both sides of this England outfit: ruthless and prolific in attack while simultaneously letting the defensive basics desert them on occasion, even if they somehow got away with a clean sheet.
As it turned out, Kosovo were very generous hosts. And not only because they are seemingly one of the last global outposts with a favourable view of British military intervention.
The way their defence graciously parted to allow Harry Winks to score his first international goal and the opener was a truly touching gesture. As was their refusal to finish off numerous dangerous counter-attacks which cut England open with worrying ease, or take advantage of some evident weakness at set-pieces from the visitors.
The ITV pundits devoted plenty of time to England’s defensive failings - keeping Roy Keane sustained with acceptable levels of indignation is the only way to keep his battery switched on - so in The Warm-Up we’re going to redress the balance slightly and focus more on those glorious, glorious goals.
Four in Pristina made England reach a national record tally of 37 in a qualifying campaign - in only eight games. Harry Kane became the first player from any country to ever score in all eight of his qualifying matches. This is a quite stunning transformation for a team which could barely score from open play at the 2018 World Cup and spent most of the qualifying process for that competition eking out narrow wins, haunted by visions of Big Sam grasping a pint of Chardonnay in his clammy fist.
“I would say that we’re definitely further ahead than we were heading into the Russia World Cup but we made massive strides in this period [between the end of qualification and the tournament],” Southgate said. “We’ve got to make sure that to get the level of performance next summer, we have to improve in the way that we did over that spell. I think the team have belief, for sure. You can see the confidence. They don’t come into these matches worrying about what might go wrong. They’ve got the confidence to control games with possession and they know they’re going to score goals."
And goals are what define this team now - bucketfuls of them. And we should be grateful for that. England isn’t a country that has regularly had the luxury of being good at both ends of the pitch at the same time and if Southgate’s side are scoring for fun, thanks to arguably Europe’s best attack, that’s fine by The Warm-Up. Now let’s stop booing our own players for no reason and what is effectively a home Euros night actually go quite well.
Ronaldo edges closer to 100 mark
Cristiano Ronaldo - Luxembourg-Portugal - Euro 2020 qualifier - Getty Images
Image credit: Getty Images
It was supposed to be a formality. Two goals were all that Cristiano Ronaldo needed on Sunday to reach 100 international strikes for Portugal, thanks to his hat-trick against Lithuania a few day’s prior. The European champions . There was talk of him reaching the milestone in 10 minutes and adding god knows him many more.
But Portugal, and Ronaldo, hadn’t reckoned on a pitch which resembled a badly-attended allotment plot. Huge ruts scarred the surface, which was breaking apart like a member of the royal family being grilled by Emily Maitlis. Bruno Fernandes managed to somehow take a lovely touch and glide a finish past the keeper for 1-0 but it wasn’t until the final minutes that Ronaldo finally got one goal, poking the ball in from the goal line to effectively steal a goal off Diogo Jota and go onto 99.
The Warm-Up eagerly awaits Ronaldo’s apology for this heinous crime, after Aaron Ramsey felt compelled to do exactly the same after nicking a goal off Ronaldo for Juventus recently. Cristiano, the floor is yours...
A historic weekend in the WSL
The Arsenal players celebrate in front of their fans after the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at Tottenham Stadium
Image credit: Getty Images
Yesterday was a huge day for women’s football in this country. Taking advantage of an international window, the WSL match between Tottenham and Arsenal was put on at the new Tottenham Stadium and a league record crowd of 38,262 watched as Viv Miedema, somewhat inevitably, put the seal on a 2-0 win for the reigning champions.
The result, though, was somewhat immaterial. The number that really mattered was the attendance - and it was just the North London derby pulling in fans. Chelsea drew 4,790 for their win over Manchester United at Kingsmeadow - a WSL record for a match staged at a regular women’s home venue. Another 23,000 were at Anfield to see Liverpool take on Everton. Something is happening here.
Arsenal manager, Joe Montemurro, said of his team’s win over Spurs: “It was an amazing occasion. We’re very proud to have been a part of it. To have the passion, to have the rivalry, to have the tribalism. It was fantastic.” Much more of this please.
IN OTHER NEWS
Yeah we get it: Spain are very good.
IN THE CHANNELS
Who said international weeks are content-less vacuums? With no Prem football it’s a chance for non-league to have its day and Nuneaton Borough goalkeeper Tony Breeden made headlines over the weekend for his missed penalty which ended up breaking a light in the stands.
And here it is from an even better angle:
IN THE CHANNELS: BEYOND FOOTBALL EDITION
Thanks to ESPN for spotting this moment of magic at the weekend:
And you just know the split-second of joy will look great on Instagram.
It’s a big night in Dublin as Ireland take on Denmark in a must-win Euro 2020 qualifier, which you can follow live with us from 7pm.
And it’s a big day in the world of tennis too, as the new-look Davis Cup finals - billed as the World Cup of tennis - launches in Madrid. The event is live and exclusive on Eurosport, starting today at 3pm!
Nick Miller will be trying to put a brave face on Ireland's elimination in tomorrow's Warm-Up.