THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES
Injury, injury, they've all got an injury
We did this. All of us. With our jokes and our memes and our banter and our "Four right backs, Gareth? Four?!" We made Gareth Southgate's mildly interesting squad selection into this whole big thing, and it all got too much, and now look what's happened. Trent Alexander-Arnold's gone and knackered something important in his leg.
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No official word yet on how bad his injury is, despite ITV's improvised lip-reading. But touchline frustration is a language we all speak fluently, and he was practically screaming. Southgate is waiting, seeing and hoping, but even he had to admit after the game that "It's not a good situation".
They are probably the least enjoyable games in the entire calendar, these pre-tournament friendlies. They exist to let international teams work themselves out a little bit, to smooth the transition between club season and summer festival. Yet the cost of injury is so high that the result and even the performance fade away, and it's just 90 minutes of wincing and finger-crossing and shouting 'What are you doing flying in like that? It's a friendly!'
One day a team is going to sack them all off and still do okay in the tournament. And on that day, they will be gone forever.
Until then, it's all about taking the positives. Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka both looked composed, and it will be exciting to see which of them claims the position of Player Everybody Says Should Be Starting After The Draw Against Scotland. And Jack Grealish purred around nicely… wait, is that ice on his leg? It's ice! He's knackered too! What were these Austrian thugs doing? It's a friendly!
Precautionary ice, we understand. Merely precautionary. But overall, despite a few encouraging showings and a decent first hour, this was an uncomfortable reminder of that thing England always seem to do: taking one or two important but slightly crocked players into a tournament, and hoping that the tweaked tendon and juddered bone play nice.
The two most important displays last night came from Harry Maguire, who wasn't even fit enough to sit on the bench, and Jordan Henderson, who was due to play some part but then felt a little discomfort. You can't move for precautions around the England camp. Outside it, you can't move for people worried about Tyrone Mings.
It is of course unfortunate that Maguire and Henderson, two of England's three most irreplaceable players, are those coming into the tournament with injuries. But: take the positives, take the positives. As it stands, England's fans have not been asked to lay hands on a picture of Maguire's ankle or Henderson's groin. As it stands. Ten days to go.
Tournaments are great fun. This little bit before the tournament? It's the worst.
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Of course, England's squad gambles are nothing compared to the risk taken by Didier Deschamps with Karim Benzema. After all, France had comfortably the strongest squad in the tournament without him. You can see the temptation, since he's brilliant, but perhaps not the necessity.
But he's back, and he had an early chance to reacquaint himself with international goalscoring against Wales, thanks to one of those handball penalties that seem harsh but also these days inevitable. The only unpunishable position for a defender's arms is wrapped behind their back like a terrified pretzel. Off went Nico Williams. Up stepped Benzema. And he missed.
And this, at least in the Warm-Up's view, is what we want from our international players. Commitment to the narrative, commitment to the bit. Left out in the interests of squad harmony, back in for reasons of being brilliant, straight up to the penalty spot: nope. Close your eyes and you can see it already. Another penalty, this one crucial. Up steps Benzema. And Mbappé. And Giroud, and Griezmann, and all of a sudden, where there used to be a football team, there's a cloud of dust with shoes and fists and swear words.
Of course the less fun version of this section notes that Deschamps probably has the clout to just impose a penalty-taking order on his team, then goes on to point out that Benzema actually played pretty well, then concludes ruefully that it probably doesn't matter who France pick up front, they're just that good all over the pitch.
But let's take the positives. Until the penalty and Nico Williams' red card, the game was rumbling along nicely at nil-nil. As such, assuming they can keep eleven on the pitch, Wales look well set to charge all the way to the final and claim the trophy. Gwlad! Gwlad! Gwlad! Ahem. Sorry. Don't know what happened there.
Always go back
Tell you what, the managerial merry-go-round is really going round this summer. Every day, it seems, some massive club is ridding themselves of one big name and picking themselves up another. Why, we took a quick nap yesterday afternoon and when we woke up, Carlo Ancelotti was back in charge at Real Madrid.
You can understand what Madrid are looking for here. Things got pretty intense under Zinedine Zidane, and this club now needs a big warm bear hug of a manager to come in, give the whole place a squeeze, arch his eyebrow, and then… well, win lots of football matches and lift lots of trophies. We'll see how that last bit goes. But Operation Cuddly Carlo is well under way.
I know Gareth [Bale] well and if he has the motivation to try to play his best game he can have a great season, I have no doubt. [Eden] Hazard is a top player. He had problems with injury and still hasn’t brought out the potential he has, but he will because he has the desire to do that.
And we're going to go ahead and boldly suggest that this might be a good move for Everton too. Of course having Ancelotti around the place was nice, but the actual football was wildly unpredictable. Sometimes good. Sometimes miserable. But definitely something for a new, up-and-coming, progressive coach to work with… what's that? David Moyes? Hey, every club has its happy place.
IN OTHER NEWS
If you were wondering how Wesley Sneijder was keeping busy these days, then you're in luck. We've found him. Turns out he's doing adverts for Dutch bookies. Please be advised that this video contains some flashing images, and also some really weird ones.
24 years ago today, Roberto Carlos put the ball on the ground. He stepped back. Back some more. Back a little further. Then he hurtled forward and kicked the ball very hard, very clean, along a trajectory that should have ended about ten yards wide of the post. That it didn't, that it hooped back on itself and went into the net, is all the proof we will ever need of the existence of magic.
More good stuff from the Eurosport website? But of course. Here's one from Mike Gibbons' Euro Icons series, looking back at the brilliant Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who captained Germany to glory in 1980.
At the 1980 European Championship in Italy, a vibrant and dynamic young team took West Germany to their third final in a row and ultimately to victory in Rome. For a variety of reasons including the climate of the time, the ennui of constant success and a team composed of spiky characters, that winning team has become the problem child of family reunions in German international football, awkwardly folded out of all the photographs.
More international friendlies! Belgium get their preparation going against Greece, which will probably be our first insight into what they look like without Kevin Du Bruyne. We're guessing: not quite as fun.
Assuming he doesn't get the Inter job later this afternoon, Tom Adams will be here tomorrow.
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