The Warm-Up: Atletico Madrid flex Marseille aside to continue Spanish dominance
Plus: England pick the best squad they could, and Clinton Njie shows what he's all about...
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
Atleti flex aside Marseille to win Europa League
In the end, it wasn’t really much of a contest, like if Stan Laurel tried to fight Connor McGregor. Marseille showed up, ran out onto the Europa League final as theoretical equals with Atletico Madrid, but shuffled off 90 minutes later having been given a brutal schooling in what footballing will really is.
Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid, Getty ImagesGetty Images
What a team this has been under Diego Simeone. Perhaps he’ll leave one day, perhaps that will be soon, but he will do so having created a team made of granite, skillful but uncompromising, who beat their opponents into submission. Their 3-0 win over Marseille in Lyon wasn’t a display of scintillating football, just a demonstration of what happens when one team is very clearly superior to their opponent.
The goals came from Antoine Griezmann and Gabi, giving Atleti their third Europa League in the last nine years and extended Spain’s dominance over European competition. That’s eight of the last nine continental victors that have come from Spain, and of course it could be nine from 10 if Real Madrid beat Liverpool in the Champions League final. Additionally, the last year at least one of the two major trophies wasn’t won by a team from either England or Spain was 2003.
Diego Pablo SimeoneEFE
“This season was a tough one,” said Simeone afterwards, “but this Europa League represents more than the Europa League trophy – it shows the value of hard work and persistence, or keeping at it and working hard. We lost two Champions League finals. We didn’t start the Champions League very well but reinvented ourselves in this competition. All that hard work will bear fruit in the end.”
Southgate names about the best squad he could
There are a couple of ways of looking at the England World Cup squad, named by Gareth Southgate on Wednesday. One is it’s a sensible blend of youth and what experience is available, a refusal to select players on the basis of reputation but also not bowing to pressure and choosing the latest flavour of the month. Another is that it’s basically the only thing he could do, such are the resources available.
Joe Hart out, Nick Pope in. Jake Livermore out, Ruben Loftus-Cheek in. Chris Smalling out, Harry Maguire in. It’s an obvious point, but this isn’t a squad that screams World Cup winners, but it probably is the best England can manage. Southgate has made all the right noises so far, so now the challenge is to actually do something with the names he has selected.
Additionally, the FA announced the squad with this lovely clip of excited kids reading out the names, which if you look at the replies appears to have annoyed all the people you’d be happy about annoying.
Allardyce and Moyes go, senses of injustice rise
Picture the scene. It’s a hearty British pub. Five of the six taps sell London Pride. The other is Stella Artois, just for a bit of European culture. Two Ploughman’s sandwiches sit on the table, as two men sit in semi silence, occasionally glancing at each other and shaking their heads.
File photo dated 07-04-2018 of Everton manager Sam Allardyce.PA Sport
They are Sam Allardyce and David Moyes. Booted again. Allardyce handed his cards in a manner quite harsh by Everton, Moyes having technically walked after West Ham dithered about asking him to stay. The agenda against the British manager continues.
Of the two, Moyes can genuinely feel a sense of grievance, having done a perfectly good job in difficult circumstances. Allardyce less so, broadly on the basis that nobody at his club seemed to like him. But, still, the good news is the persecution complex that British managers seem to have can be topped up just a little more.
IN OTHER NEWS
Jack Wilshere wasn’t in the World Cup squad, but at least he had a sense of humour about it all…
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Fernando Torres
Fernando TorresGetty Images
He’s had to take a lot of guff in his career, but Fernando Torres bows out of his second spell at Atleti with a trophy under his arm. Go well, Nino.
Zero: Clinton Njie
"As the members of Gareth Southgate’s squad prepare themselves for this summer’s World Cup, the news of the death at the age of 83 of Ray Wilson, the left-back in Alf Ramsey’s Boys of ’66, comes as a sharp and poignant reminder of a different time, when a World Cup winner could retire from the game and spend his remaining decades as a professional undertaker."
As mentioned, the last time one of the European trophies were claimed by teams outside Spain and England was 2003: the Champions league final was that eye-bleeder between Milan and Juventus, but the UEFA Cup was much more fun. Here’s Porto, managed by some bloke, beating Celtic.
We haven’t quite got there yet, but we’re reaching the point where pickings are going to be slim, football-wise, until the glory of the World Cup. Tonight though, you’ve got either the semi-final of the European Under-17s Championship, as England face the Netherlands. You’ve got the League Two play-off semi-final second leg between Exeter and Lincoln. You’ve got the Bundesliga relegation play-off between Wolfsburg and Holstein Kiel. You’ve got enough to keep ticking over.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Tom Adams, who’s always ticking over.