SATURDAY'S BIG STORIES
Everybody Expects The England Inquisition
We were prepared to be disappointed. We were prepared for England, this new-look tournament-savvy England, to manage their way through the game: dissipate the energy, control the occasion, score two goals. One of them a penalty, probably. We were prepared for tedium.
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Instead we got an nil-nil draw that managed to be far more interesting than that sounds. Scotland started with great intensity and kept it up, John McGinn was all kinds of Super, and Billy Gilmour was the best player and best passing midfielder on the park. Imagine how good he'll be after he gets his super-soldier serum
Perhaps more importantly, at least for the neutral, it was familiar. From the arrival of the Tartan Army into the streets of London — which may not have been particularly sensible, given everything — to the sight of England struggling amid a chorus of boos, this was an occasion to slip into like a much-loved jumper. This is how major tournaments are supposed to feel. Warm. Friendly.
Scotland fans were loving life in London ahead of the game
Image credit: Getty Images
Obviously Scotland can still go through to the knockouts, which will be like putting on your favourite jumper and finding a third sleeve sticking out the front. But no analogy's perfect.
And now an even more familiar ritual: the mid-tournament inquest. Obviously proceedings will start with Harry Kane, though not for long: the point of Kane is that he keeps scoring goals even when he's knackered, even when the team's playing poorly, even when all around him is going full Tottenham.
Seeing him — correctly — taken off with England needing a goal was one thing, but we can probably assume that he starts against the Czech Republic. The question, then, will be one of Kane maximisation: how to give him the ball in good places, how to make chances. And it's here that Southgate's squad really comes into its own. England can never have had a better group of players about which to have an argument.
Remember the old days? The small, contained arguments like "Should Michael Owen start?" or "Can Gerrard and Lampard play together?" or "What is an Owen Hargreaves?" Now, England have near-infinite combinations of sparkling attacking talent: all brilliant, all differently brilliant. Pick any three or four names at random and you can make a case for them.
We've no idea what the correct answer is, though we strongly suspect it involves Jude Bellingham. But that's not our job, and it's not yours. Our job, and yours, and the entire nation's plus every neutral's, is to have a big long sprawling conversation about what Southgate needs to do. This is as important a part of the tournament experience as bubbles in the fountains and songs in the streets. It's coming home. It's coming. Argument's coming home.
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Obviously, while the nation's mashing the big red button and calling "Treason! Treason!", Gareth Southgate has time for a more considered approach. But under the circumstances, might a little controlled panic be useful?
England, after all, already have four points and have yet to concede a goal. They also have the head-to-head advantage over Croatia, who will be favourites to beat Scotland. Even a defeat is likely to leave England second in the group. As such, Southgate has freedom to play around with his squad.
To be clear, we're not advocating taking this game lightly. The Czech Republic have looked a decent side so far, and if there's a more likely candidate for Official England Heartbreaker than West Ham's Tomáš Souček, we can't immediately call him to mind. England will want to win the group to keep their games at Wembley: even when the boos are rolling down from the stands, it's home.
But it's not a must-win, merely a would-be-very-good-to-win. Which means that this might be a good time for Southgate to have a look at Plan B. To see if any of his squad options are in that special tournament place. To even — oh, unthinkable heresy — give Harry Kane a rest.
Could all go wrong, of course. Could cause more problems than it solves, if it turns out that Plans B, C, and D are also a bit stodgy. But that win over Croatia has given England a little room for experimentation, and that draw with Scotland has suggested they might need it. Out of the waistcoat and into the lab coat, Gareth. Have you considered Jordan Henderson as a false nine?
England striker Harry Kane
Image credit: Getty Images
Meanwhile, Back In Tottenham
Erik Ten Hag. Mauricio Pochettino. Antonio Conte. Paulo Fonseca. Hansi Flick. Brendan Rodgers. Richard Madeley. Juan Sheet. Barney the Dinosaur. And now, apparently, Gennaro Gattuso. We're on a strict rota system here, so please check your emails: today may be your allocated Not Becoming Spurs Manager Day.
It is a minor tragedy that this managerial pursuit, all pratfalls and buckets of whitewash and planks to the face, is happening during the Euros. So much tremendous content, so little psychic space. But presumably Spurs fans are glad that everybody's got bigger fish to point and laugh at.
The consequences of all this for the managerial search itself are serious: every candidate now begins negotiations knowing that they're at least sixth- or seventh-choice, and that's on a list that doesn't seem to have much internal coherence beyond "looking for a job". It's still a very strong squad to work with, of course. But the organisation as a whole is looking deeply chaotic.
And the fact that we know all this is evidence enough. There's a major tournament on, and nobody beyond Spurs fans really cares who gets the job, and yet we've all been receiving hourly updates. Talks. Advanced talks. Collapsed. Talks again. Advanced talks again. Collapsed again. Perhaps Fabio Paratici should just set himself up a newsletter. If Spurs are going to be leakier than a bullet-riddled colander, they could at least try and monetise it.
IN OTHER NEWS
Bobby Zamora. Still got it.
Spain play today, but Sergio Ramos will be watching at home. And he'll be looking for a new club, too. Here's the Guardian's Sid Lowe on the final, quietly brutal parting of Real Madrid and their most iconic player of recent years.
This time there was no way back … Ramos talks about Pérez and himself as "father and son" and says: "In families there are arguments." But the relationship had been strained, two men of status and power who were implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) a threat to each other, those struggles played out in public and via proxies in the press.
And, since we've got Sergio Ramos in mind, here's his greatest moment in a Madrid shirt. Yes, it's him dropping the Copa del Rey under a bus.
Spain take on Poland, hoping that this time they can turn their million passes into a single goal. They need to be careful, however: we're guessing that Lewandowski won't be quite so profligate as the Swedes. Before that, it's back to the Group of Oh Dear. France take on Hungary in a full stadium, and Portugal will try to make Germany's start even worse.
And Andi Thomas will be back to tell you all about that, once he's fished the remnants of his Wolverton Town Cricket Club Under-14 Fielder of the Year award out from under the wheels of this 171.
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