The Warm-Up: Daniel James is an inverted Robben, and we’re delighted
Plus Kevin de Bruyne happens to Scotland, and a bunch of joyless dolts paint over some artwork
TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES
Daniel James: the Welsh, mirror’d Arjen Robben?
While Wales haven’t exactly been convincing under Ryan Giggs, one thing they do have is a collection of potentially brilliant young players: your Harry Wilsons, your Ethan Ampadus, and specifically in this case, your Daniel Jamesesseses.
Manchester United’s summer signing from Swansea probably didn’t expect to be such a key player for club and country so early in his career, but key he is, and he scored Wales’s winner in their friendly against Belarus on Monday night, a winner that was rather familiar to anyone who has been watching United this season. Cut inside from the left, right-footed curler toward the far corner, bang. Lovely.
He is essentially turning into a mirror version of Arjen Robben, someone who has one move that in theory you should be able to predict, but for some reason you can’t stop. And let him keep doing that, we say.
Perhaps more importantly for Wales last night was a result elsewhere: while James was banging this one home in a friendly, Azerbaijan were holding Croatia to a 1-1 draw, meaning Wales with a game in hand could even sneak into the automatic qualification spots for Euro 2020. What a world.
Germany just about muddle their way through
These are interesting times for the German team at the moment. Not only are they in a period of transition after that calamitous performance at the World Cup, but they have half their first-choice team out at the moment, if anyone can actually name who their first-choice team would be.
Nevertheless, they managed a win against Northern Ireland last night, just about, a 2-0 success that keeps them top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group. A brilliant strike by Marcel Halstenberg followed by an injury-time clincher by Serge Gnabry was enough to claim the points, and even though the Germans weren’t especially convincing, they will welcome the win with the most open of arms after defeat to the Dutch last week.
“We were under pressure to win after Friday’s result and we had to overcome some obstacles in the first half,” Jogi Loew said afterwards. “The Northern Irish attacked early and disrupted our game. After the break we did it better.”
Kevin de Bruyne happens to Scotland
If you required any further evidence that Kevin de Bruyne is well and truly back, here it was, as Belgium flexed aside Scotland in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Glasgow on Monday.
You can’t really blame Scotland for this one. Sometimes, Kevin de Bruyne happens to you. Is there much you can do when Kevin de Bruyne happens to you? For the most part, no. He’s made fools of better defences than Scotland’s before, and he will do again.
De Bruyne scored one and set up the other three in Belgium’s 4-0 success at Hampden Park, giving them a 100% record from their six games and basically ending Scotland’s hopes of automatic qualification. They will now have to hope for the playoffs…
- Kosovo will be toughest test yet, says England boss Southgate
- Poland's lead at the top cut after goalless draw with Austria
- Babel's brace spurs Netherlands to win in Estonia
- Northern Ireland hopes dented by Germany defeat in Belfast
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Harry Kane
Every professional football has, at one time or another, probably gone down a little easily. It’s not ideal, but it happens. Every now and then debate will crystalise around one player who is accused of diving, and that player will issue a series of denials. Right now, that player is Harry Kane.
So hat’s off to him, and he’s granted our hero status, for managing to get through all of this with a straight face.
"Never [have I dived] and, hopefully, I don’t have to. I said after the Arsenal game it’s a 50/50 one, similar to the one we got given against us at Wembley the year before. It happens in football. I am someone who uses his body well, which as a striker you have to do at every level. On the halfway line it’s a free kick every day of the week. In the penalty box you don’t always get it. People’s opinions are their opinions. I wasn’t concentrating on that sort of stuff. For me, it’s about doing my best on the pitch and the most important thing is about winning games."
Zeros: These dolts painting over Leeds artwork
You may already be aware of Andy McVeigh’s work. The ‘Burley Banksy’ has been painting Leeds United-related artwork around the city over the last few months, and very good it was too. Particularly popular was his tribute to Gary Speed, but apparently there are a collection of entirely joyless souls in Leeds that aren’t so keen on things that might give people a little happiness in a broadly grim world, and have instead chosen to paint over his creations with black paint.
“We can cover up graffiti more quickly than this person can paint it. You call it “mindless vandalism”, which we find insulting. In fact this is not mindless, and we have simply covered up unauthorised graffiti. We have no interest in soccer and have nothing against Leeds United or their fans (except disinterest).”
What utterly abysmal people.
On this day in 2008, Theo Walcott scored a hat-trick on his first full start for England. Still aged just 19, Walcott had been around for a while but this felt like the start of something genuinely exceptional for the winger. Has his career been a disappointment since then? Is it fair to judge him in those terms? Who knows. For now, enjoy these goals.
"The history of the Kosovo national team is a complex, twisty thing. Like the politics of a state still not universally recognised by the international community, it resists simple analysis. But those seeking a primer could do far worse than zooming in on two matches, some 17 years apart. Together, they capture the overarching themes of the tale: the optimism and the missed opportunities, the hope and the heartbreak, the constant renewal of belief against the odds. Kosovo vs Albania, September 7 2002. Bulgaria vs Kosovo, June 10 2019. You could call them bookends, but that would imply finality, a story concluded. The reality is that is they are two versions of the same plot line: Kosovan football clearing its throat and introducing itself on the world stage. The first proved to be a false start. The hope, as they prepare to face England in Southampton on Tuesday, is that the rewrite has an altogether happier payoff."
England face them Kosovars, while elsewhere in the group it’s Montenegro vs Czech Republic, and beyond that Portugal travel to Lithuania, France look to fill their boots vs Andorra and Iceland face Albania.
Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Eurosport’s own legitimate player on the international scene, Michael Hincks.