TUESDAY'S BIG STORIES
Give Gareth a chance please
It's exactly a week since England were thumped at home by Hungary. More notably, it's exactly 20 years since Ronaldinho floated a free-kick towards the England goal, John Motson uttered the immortal words "oh, and Seaman's been beaten" and the biggest lie in football - "it wasn't a fluke, promise" - was born. Brazil won the quarter-final 2-1 and nine days later the Brazilian Trent Alexander-Arnold was lifting the World Cup aloft. It still hurts.
PSG's interest in Rashford shows Man Utd that things can get worse - The Warm-Up
At the time, it was the third instalment of England-themed anguish in the Warm-Up's short existence on Planet Earth. First it was David Beckham and Diego Simeone at France '98, then it was Phil Neville and the most needless tackle at Euro 2000. And then this: the day David Seaman briefly forgot how to jump.
It didn't get any better. A double dose of Portugal penalty heartbreak in 2004 and 2006. The red and blue umbrella of 2008. Wayne's "that's what loyal support is" in a particularly bleak 2010. Penalties again in 2012. Roy Hodgson's Manaus misery in 2014 and death by Thunderclap in 2016.
And then, after Sam Allardyce was caught eyeing up a pint of wine, along came a stubbled man in a waistcoat and everything changed. A team containing Ashley Young, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard found themselves leading a World Cup semi-final, and still firmly in it when extra time rolled around. They may have lost, but nothing could trample on the memories of that shootout win, of that Atomic Kitten remix.
Then came the briefly prestigious UEFA Nations League Finals in 2019, a four-team tournament that transfixed a nation for precisely 120 minutes until England again bowed out in the semis after extra time. But two years later (thank you, Covid), Gareth Southgate's troops were back, carving up the European Championship - okay, okay, grinding out horrible wins - before falling just short in the final.
It's not been perfect. We all know by now that making substitutions in the 119th minute can only end in dejection. Likewise, playing well until you go 1-0 up, and then forgetting how to make a three-yard pass, isn't necessarily the best tactic. But these are minor flaws given the dross that has come before.
And yet despite England consistently ruining our lives - Golden Generation and Wazza, this is particularly aimed at you - we've all entertained the idea that all they need to do is just pop a well-known manager at the helm and it'll soon be "0 years of hurt" blaring out the radio.
But that's nonsense. England will always be terrible, in one way or another. That's just how it is. But being terrible, and still winning 1-0 most of the time when it matters, is far more preferable to seeing a bunch of good players try a more extravagant system and almost certainly fail.
England are still so close to making the final step under Southgate - why the hell would anyone demand change, given what has happened these past two decades?
Giggs steps down as Wales manager
With Wales gearing up for their first World Cup appearance since 1958, Giggs has officially resigned. He has been accused of using controlling and coercive behaviour against his former girlfriend, and of assaulting her and her sister. He has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to all charges.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to manage my country, but it is only right that the Wales FA, the coaching staff and the players prepare for the tournament with certainty, clarification and without speculation around the position of their head coach,” Giggs said in a statement on Monday night.
“As has been well publicised, I have pleaded not guilty to the criminal accusations being heard at Manchester Crown Court. Whilst I am confident in our judicial process, I had hoped that the case would have been heard earlier to enable me to resume my managerial responsibilities.
"Through nobody’s fault the case has been delayed. I do not want the country’s preparations for the World Cup to be affected, destabilised or jeopardised in any way by the continued interest around this case.”
Interim boss Robert Page looks set to stay in his role for Qatar later this year.
We’re as gutted as you that there’s no World Cup on this summer. So instead, let’s revert our attention to that classic 20 years ago.
Blame David Seaman all you want, but England’s hopes on that day in Shizuoka began to unravel when a certain David Beckham - four years on from introducing his heel to Diego Simeone’s thigh - broke the tuck jump world record to avoid being clattered. Thirteen seconds later, Rivaldo had stroked home the equaliser and the downfall had begun.
Liz, keep that knighthood on hold please.
IN THE CHANNELS
A 1,000,000-seater stadium is always going to look ridiculous. But live sport isn't just about seeing what is happening - if you want a good view, just watch along on TV - it's mainly about the atmosphere. And this would be superb.
Just imagine. You're in the top tier. Something happens a mile away on the pitch. Then the noise starts travelling up the stadium. Is that a groan? A cheer? Not until the row in front of you is celebrating can you be sure. How can a Mexican wave of noise not excite people? *Books tickets for Row ZZZZZY*
Nowt. Zilch. Take the day off, you’ve earned it.
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