This one’s for you Gareth: a bluffer’s guide on how to win the Euros


Well, at least Harry Kane wasn’t on corners this time. Eight years on from delivering humiliation in Nice, Iceland were back at it, thunder-clapping their way to a 1-0 victory on Friday to keep the favourites – who now have one win in their last five – humble before Euro 2024 kicks off. So what should England fans do here: label this as a crisis-in-waiting or brush it off as an exercise in experimentation? Sob over pictures of Jack Grealish, national hero of the pandemic Euros, or fire up “Anthony Gordon – Crazy Dribbling Skills, Goals & Assists – 2024” on YouTube and trust Gareth Southgate has got this? England’s manager is probably calm, aided by his fine tournament record. But there’s no harm in some last-minute revision on how to actually win the trophy.

First up, Gareth, don’t host the bloody thing. You’ll get far but heartbreak is inevitable at the finish line. In 2004 a Portugal XI featuring Cristiano Ronaldo, Luís Figo and Deco – who’d just won Big Cup with Porto – turned up in Lisbon for a ticker-tape parade only for Angelos Charisteas to deliver unexpected Greek glory. Twelve years later the Portuguese were jubilant in a moth-heavy contest in Paris against France and, well, there was Wembley three years ago. So apologies, Germany, we know you’ve done OK lately but best to get the tissues ready. A penalty shootout victory is pretty much obligatory, too; even tiki-taka Spain had to show some spot-kick bottle, beating Italy and Portugal after extra time on their way to back-to-back title triumphs in 2008 and 2012.

You don’t need the biggest names up top either. The player of the tournament in 2021 was Italy’s goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, aided by two grizzled, been-there-done-that centre-backs in front of him, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. Portugal had Ronaldo in 2016 but he was forced off the field with knack in the first half of the final; up stepped Pepe in defence, shutting out the French in front of Rui Patrício, the pair part of a team that drew thrice in the group stage and won just once across the tournament in normal time. Doing it the ugly way is just fine.

That being said, a bit of firepower in the reserves wouldn’t go amiss. Here’s a sequence for your next pub quiz: Oliver Bierhoff, Sylvain Wiltord, David Trezeguet, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and Eder. All have all come on as subs in finals since 1996 and scored. This isn’t how it’s been done at the World Cup: look across the previous seven men’s tournaments there and you get just one man who managed a goal after coming on in the final: Germany’s Mario Götze in 2014. Ivan Toney and Ollie Watkins will hope their bibs offer a similar dose of magic.


10.55am: “Players and clubs will not participate in that tournament. A single Real Madrid match is worth €20m and Fifa wants to give us that amount for the entire cup. Like us, other clubs will refuse the invitation” – in an interview with Il Giornale, Carlo Ancelotti reckons that club football’s most successful team will snub next year’s bloated Club World Cup.

2.05pm: “My words about the Fifa Club World Cup were not interpreted in the way I intended. Nothing could be further from my interest than to reject the possibility of playing in a tournament that I consider could be a great opportunity to continue fighting for big titles with Real Madrid” – perhaps after a little nudge from Florentino Pérez, Ancelotti issues a classic statement on his TwiXer account to distance himself from the above.

The biggest disappointment for those of us chortling over England’s result last Friday is that they haven’t been drawn in a group with Lidl, Morrisons and Tesco” – Peter Storch.

It took me longer than it should have to realise that was a picture of Jack Grealish holding a bottle of mayonnaise and not Married With Children’s Bud Bundy” – Gavin O’Sullivan.

So, following Wales’s recent draw with Gibraltar (and this – Football Daily Ed), you really think that there really isn’t much lower to go? I beg to differ” – Dan Croft.

Send letters to Today’s letter o’ the day winner is … Peter Storch, who wins a copy of Euro 88: The Football Purists’ European Championship, by Pitch Publishing. Visit their bookshop here. Terms and conditions for our competitions can be viewed here.

Our all-singing, all-dancing Euro 2024 player interactive is live, baby! Here’s everything you need to know (and more) about all 622 squad members in Germany.

The Euros are coming! Composite: Guardian

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