THURSDAY'S BIG STORIES

Once you Popp

Alexandra Popp’s name is both a gift and a curse. A gift because of the myriad options her surname gives you, so too the headline-makers and sub-editors, but a curse because you’re left pondering the puns that have escaped you, and so, a la David Brent, we shall scratch our goatee in the office while we think of something better.
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Anyway. Popp. Yes. She’s rather good, and rather clinical, and quite the problem in that once she gets going she really is difficult to stop – a scary proposition that England will be confronting next on Sunday after her double against France helped Germany reach the Euro 2022 final.
Popp started the first game of the tournament as a substitute, but she is now joint-top scorer with Beth Mead on six goals at the Championships, scoring in every game so far, and needing just the 17 shots to reach this tally (thanks, Opta), making her the obvious threat that Millie Bright and Leah Williamson must deal with at Wembley to ensure they are the ones popping champagne after full-time and lifting a first-ever major trophy.
Germany, meanwhile, are two-time world champions and have won the Euros – gulp – eight times, and with an Olympic gold medal to boot, they have lost just one final (the 1995 World Cup) out of the 12 they have contested.
Somehow, Germany were just the joint-fifth favourites heading into this tournament - behind Spain, England, France, the Netherlands, and joint with Sweden - but now they enter the final having conceded just one goal all tournament.
The same goes for England, too, in fairness, so what will it be? A watertight game or a high-scoring affair? Let’s just fast-forward to Sunday, please, as we really, really, can’t wait, and also - despite the one goal conceded apiece - really, really, really can’t see this one remaining goalless*.
"It's a classic game, it will be an incredible final," said Germany boss Martina Voss-Tecklenburg. "We look forward to this game, as everyone will do in England and in Germany.
"We will be playing at Wembley in front of 80 or 90,000 people and most of them for England and against us, but we understand that and we're accepting the challenge."
*Direct abuse to @MichaelHincks if this one ends goalless, cheers

Ronaldo’s next play, and in comes Fergie

For Cristiano Ronaldo’s next trick…
Yes, in a summer window where no one is willing to pay a transfer fee for Ronaldo, his ploy – along with agent Jorge Mendes – is to seemingly plead with Manchester United to release him from the final year of his contract at the club.
This makes toys out the pram child’s play, for this is a full-on declaration of just how unwilling he is to hear the Europa League anthem on a Thursday night. Reports suggest even Sir Alex Ferguson has intervened (why? Well, there’s not enough time to dissect that major issue of United’s, but of course he didn’t turn up this week for the Carrington afternoon tea alone) – but nothing will change Ronaldo’s mind.
Meanwhile, after Bayern Munich distanced themselves on Tuesday night, Atletico Madrid’s supporters made their feelings pretty clear.
Now, we don’t speak Spanish, but we’re pretty sure the below means Atletico fans don’t want Ronaldo at their club…
Indeed. His options are running out. But will United play ball and release him? Unlikely. Bring on the Premier League season, and that first match at Old Trafford.

McGinn in for Mings

Quite rare you see such a decision so openly discussed, but very little gets past fans these days, and so Aston Villa have tackled the issue head-on after Steven Gerrard opted to take the armband away from Tyrone Mings and give it to John McGinn.
“He is a popular member of the dressing room who sets high standards and expectations of himself,” Gerrard said of McGinn, and of Mings: “I believe that not having the responsibility of the captaincy will allow Tyrone to focus more on his own game, which can only benefit him and the team.”
Fair enough, really, and Mings took the news on the chin. Outwardly, at least.

IN THE CHANNELS

Benz beauty

The perfect angle of Karim Benzema’s goal against Club America…

RETRO CORNER

Happy birthday Harry Kane, 29 today, and staying with strikers, our Retro Corner celebrates 11 years since Manchester City made one of the best signings the Premier League has ever seen…

COMING UP

Quiet on the football front, unless Europa Conference League Qualifying is your thing. Tomorrow, and yes, in late July, the Championship starts – when Huddersfield host Burnley. Blimey.
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