The Warm-Up: Look how much happier Maurizio Sarri seems
Drama, cruelty, pain and all the other good things about football, plus Fernando Torres retires and it was all worth it...
FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES
Maurizio Sarri seems much happier now
After spending a year shuffling around, chewing on the end of a cigarette and looking like he’d been forced to wear a tracksuit from the school lost property box, Maurizio Sarri probably needed to get away from Chelsea.
And get away he has, the new Juventus manager looking much more content with life in Turin as he was presented to the world yesterday. By now we all know the Sarri story, a banker who gave up what was presumably a pretty secure and lucrative gig to follow the dream of coaching, making his way through the various levels of Italian football, and now to the very top, managing the biggest team in the country. No wonder he’s pleased.
"I’ve taken a long road to get here, from Serie C2 to B, A, Premier League and now Juventus. It’s special to be here. It’s the best squad in Italy. I’m coming from Chelsea, which has an inferior history to that of Juventus. It’s another step forward for me. Coaching Ronaldo is also an escalation. I coached great players at Chelsea but with him it’s the best in the world. He already holds all of the records you can have in world football but I would like help him break some more records."
Who knows if it will work. There are plenty of players in that Juve squad – not least Ronaldo – who you wouldn’t exactly peg as Sarri players, but for now let’s just appreciate the extraordinary achievement that even being here represents for him.
Not that everyone is exactly wishing him the best of luck, of course.
Uruguay get away with it against Japan
There have most certainly been some surprising results in this year’s Copa America. Nearly more surprising than most was Uruguay vs Japan last night, in which the guests from Asia went ahead against one of the tournament favourites twice, only to be pegged back both times.
And it was our old friend VAR that intervened again to help Uruguay out, awarding them a penalty after Naomichi Ueda committed the heinous sin of having the bottom of his foot kicked by Edinson Cavani.
This is one of the many assorted problems with VAR: in most of the angles of the incident, it looks exactly that – a wafted leg is kicked by Cavani, which probably would have been quite painful, but in no way a foul. But there’s one angle in which it does look a bit like Ueda actively put his leg out to foul his opponent, even though he didn’t actually, and that proved enough for the referee.
Uruguay would have gone through with a win, and probably still will as they face Ecuador on Monday, but really they should be sweating even more.
Drama, cruelty, pain: all the best things about football
The great and terrible thing about sport is the fine margins. Inches this way or that can determine whether years of work, commitment and sacrifice has ultimately been worth it. The glory and the pain, so close to each other.
Take Chile and Cameroon, for example. The former needed to beat Thailand by three goals to claim a slightly unlikely place in the last 16 of the World Cup as one of the best third-place finishers from the group stage, and things were looking up when they were 2-0 ahead in the 85th minute and were VAR’d a penalty. Up stepped Francisca Lara, but she cracked her kick against the bar and the dreams of a nation floated away into the cool night air.
Chile would have faced England had the penalty gone in, but instead that place goes to Cameroon, who secured the spot in similarly dramatic fashion. They were also looking good going into the final ten minutes, 1-0 ahead against New Zealand thanks to Ajara Nchout, but were pegged back when Aurelle Awona sliced a volley into her own net, and all seemed lost.
Until, with quite literally the last kick of the game, Nchout jinked her way into space and curled a shot into the corner. Limbs all over the shop. Lovely stuff.
HEROES AND ZEROS
Hero: Sergio Ramos
Now, the Warm-Up has always thought Sergio Ramos was an unforgivable tool, but we did reassess things slightly when we heard about what happened at his wedding. According to guest Santi Cazorla, the bride and groom arrived at the reception in a giant, Chinese New Year-style dragon, while ‘The Final Countdown’ by Europe played. If you’re going to be a ludicrous cartoon baddie – and Ramos very much is – then you absolutely have to lean into it, and he very much did that here. We won’t say this much, but hats off Sergio.
Zeros: The Carabao Cup
England’s second cup competition has always been a disregarded step-child, the consolation prize for any team who doesn’t get any of the others. But they really don’t help themselves, as shown by the draw for the first round of the coming season’s competition, which they held in a Morrisons supermarket, and was done by John Barnes and Ray Parlour. Apart from anything else, anything that debases the reputation of the great man Barnes must be regarded as the lowest form of discourse.
In fact, let’s remember Barnes as he should be remembered.
Happy retirement to Fernando Torres, the man who was ultimately worth every penny of that £50million for Chelsea supporters for one moment…
"If you watch the Premier League, or Championship football, you know Saido Berahino. He could be, and should be, brilliant, something Mauricio Pochettino clearly believed when he tried four times to sign him for Tottenham in 2015. It was some saga, but eventually Berahino ended up at Stoke, not Spurs, and now he finds himself without a club. He was sacked in May after being convicted of an alcohol-involved violation: not his first controversy. In 2015, he was found guilty of the same offence, and the following year he served an eight-week ban after testing positive for the recreational drug MDMA, which he said came from a spiked drink."
And the first AfCoN game sees hosts Egypt face Zimbabwe. Alternatively, England’s kids are in action against Romania in the European Under-21s Championship, France face Croatia and in the Copa America it’s Ecuador vs Chile. Have a great weekend.