The Terrace’s Guide to Football this Summer
With the domestic football season over, there remains just one game of note for English teams – the Champions League finals. For the first time, the two competitions’ finales are being competed for by clubs from one nation. If it has somehow eluded you, Arsenal lost 4-1 to Chelsea in Baku, Azerbaijan, in the Europa League final last night, and Spurs play Liverpool in Madrid, Spain, in the Champions League final this Saturday. Then football is over for 10 weeks until we do it all again in August. Or is it?
“Thousands and thousands of hours of football,” David Mitchell’s character lambasted, “each more climatic than the last; constant, dizzying, year-long, endless football; every kick of it mattering massively to someone, presumably. Watch it all, all here, all the time, forever. It will never stop.” And he wasn’t wrong.
Just yesterday, Gareth Southgate announced his final 23-man squad for the inaugural Nations League finals, where England have been drawn against Netherlands in the semi-final, as has Portugal against Switzerland. I was warming to the ex-Villa and Middlesbrough defender up until last summer, at which point I – and any other English football romantic – completely fell in love with him. Who can forget Trippier’s freekick against Croatia and Harry Kane’s pass to Sterling to put us 2-0 up and one foot in the final………….
Since then - though still firmly my favourite England manager since the turn of the century - the honeymoon period has well and truly ended for me, the long years of love too, and now I’m currently in the midlife resentment phase. Having told Telegraph Sport, “I never pick on reputation – form has to come into it,” he’s proceeded to select Fabian Delph and Jesse Lingard, while leaving out James Ward-Prowse, Nathan Redmond, and Harry Winks.
With the finals taking place between June 5th– 9th, that is football sorted for another week, and we can only hope Virgil Van Dijk is crestfallen after an inevitable second Champions League final defeat in as many years, or suffering from mild liver damage following an inevitable Champions League triumph.
But what then? If England fail to lift the Nations League silverware – is there any?! – we’ve got another chance immediately, with the Lionesses tipped as one of the bookies’ favourites to win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Hosted in France, Phil Neville’s side are in Group D with Scotland, Argentina, and Japan. Third in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking and captained by Manchester City’s Steph Houghton, England are alongside Germany, France, and United States as the favourites, and enter the tournament on the back of winning the SheBelieves Cup. The games will be shown live on the BBC, with the tournament running for a month from June 7th– July 7th.
If you’re the sort that literally cannot pass a day without watching some form of football, I’ve got news for you. There’s more. Starting on Saturday June 15th, the Copa America kicks off with hosts Brazil versus Bolivia. Finishing on July 7th, the tournament runs for three weeks, making it a perfect time to sign up for Premier Sports’ 30-day free trial, as the channel has exclusive UK rights to the competition. As always, Brazil and Argentina are the favourites, and Lionel Messi, who will be 32-years old come the final, will be hoping to finally win a trophy with the mens’ senior team, after cup final defeats in the World Cup 2014, and the Copa America on three separate occasions.
The latest news surrounding the tournament, is that Brazil manager Tite has removed the captaincy from PSG’s Neymar, citing disciplinary issues, replacing him with club team-mate Dani Alves. On the pitch, Venezuela are the tournament’s dark horses for some, with Carlos Tarache, CEO of Solovenex, the leading website on Venezuelan football, telling me he is quietly confident.
“Although we have to face Brazil in the first round, we do not look at teams like Peru and Bolivia, with any fear. With no disrespect, they are beatable teams for us,” he said of the group stages. “However, [head coach, Rafa] Dudamel has players at the height of their ability, able to give joy to the country. I consider the second round likely. In the knockouts, anything is possible.”
New York Red Bulls’ 18-year old midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr, who didn’t make the final squad, was more willing to openly state his beliefs in his countrymen, telling me in Marchthat they are capable of outdoing their previous best of 4thin 2011.
“I am 100% sure that we will be very well prepared for this. This Copa is going to be the best we’ve done; it is going to be in the history books – of that I am sure.” If you’re a betting man, they might be worth a flutter.
If that is not enough for you, then I predict you are the kind of person that will try anything to satisfy their fix, which may lead you to the already underway FIFA U-20 World Cup. As England are missing out on the finals, despite being the current holders, only the most ardent will give more than a cursory glance at the tournament, given the sheer wealth of football this summer.
If another England semi-final, the Lionesses, South American football, or talent-spotting, isn’t scratching that itch, perhaps you can look to the virtual world for relief. Though Football Managerrequires more hours in a day and a diploma in Excel to do well at, FIFA’s career mode is better than it has been for years, PES will always have the pull of a Master League with Castolo & Co. and Championship Manager 2001/02 is timeless. In fact, I recently ran a 10-year simulation on the lattermost, to see how it matched up to real life, and how Cherno Samba would fare without intervention. The results were interesting.
Somewhere, there’s football for you, be it in the flesh, in 1080p or UK4HD; online, offline, real or virtual, there is no need to stop just because the domestic season has. From Raheem Sterling to Lucy Bronze, Philippe Coutinho to Timothy Weah, and Maxim Tsigalko to the man simply known as Minanda, it is everywhere.
“The football is officially going on forever,” Mitchell’s character says. “It will never be finally decided who has won the football! There is still everything to play for and forever to play it in! So that’s the football, coming up, watch it. Watch the football. Watch it. Watch it. It’s going to move! Watch the football. It’s football!”