Harry Kane, England’s talismanic strike and, arguably, only truly world class player, was mobbed by
his teammates with just minutes to go in the Three Lions opening match in the FIFA World Cup. Kane
had just scored the winning goal (his second) in a hard-fought, yet merited, 2-1 victory over Tunisia
in Volgograd. The, somewhat overzealous, reaction resulted in lots of ribbing on social media, mainly
from Irish, Scottish and Welsh fans who see it as something of a national obligation to laugh at
England’s follies. After all, it was ‘only’ Tunisia.
To understand the reaction from the English players though, you must understand the England
national team and its tortured history with major tournaments over the last few decades. They often
enter a tournament just outside the top tier of teams expected to win (they were in fact seventh-
favourites at around 18/1 with major sportsbooks to win it all in Russia). However, the modern
England team has rarely played like the sixth or seventh best team.
Media pressure seems to be off England’s backs
Tracking the British media reaction over the last couple of decades has been an exercise in
overreaction and mood swings. From the chest-thumping overconfidence of the early 2000s to the
unfair criticisms of players in later years, the sports media has generally got it wrong when it comes
to England. Before this tournament, there was a lot more apathy, an acceptance that England would
be, well, unremarkable.
The opening game against Tunisia, however, was pleasantly different to what England have served
up in the past. England played with a freedom and zest that surprised fans and critics alike. In a
tournament were the original favourites, Germany and Brazil, both suffered in their opening games,
England played above their current level. For large swathes of the match, the team ranked seventh
by the sportsbooks produced the best soccer of the tournament so far. England created numerous
chances, were unlucky to concede a dubious penalty and kept belief in their own style of play
throughout the game. The scoreline dramatically flattered the North Africans.
England’s odds slashed
The sportsbooks had to react: the latest World Cup 2018 from Mr Green shows England’s odds have
been cut to 12/1, on a par with Lionel Messi’s Argentina and a lot closer to champions Germany
(8/1) than at the start of the tournament. Only Spain (now at 9/2) and Belgium (17/2) of the ‘big
nations’ have joined England by dropping in the odds based on performances in the opening games.
Of course, there is nothing to say that England have turned a corner after so many years of
disappointment. Indeed, by the time you read this, England could have put on a horror show against
their next opponents, Panama. There were negatives from the Tunisia game too, including lackluster
performances from Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling. But, on a whole, England delivered in a way they
haven’t in many years on the grand stage.
Young side delivers
There will be tougher tests to be sure, especially when it comes to facing the top nations later on in
the tournament. But as a first test for an England team constantly in a state of rehabilitation, they
passed with flying colours. More of the same and there is no limit to how far they can go. As there
are so many EPL stars in the team, it’s easy to forget that England are one of youngest sides in the
tournament. They came of age in a balmy night in Volgograd.
Juventus Fans Arrested After Clash with Police
Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League quarter-final clash between Juventus and Ajax has already been marred by violence and controversy, before the teams even took to the pitch.
According to Ansa, citing a report from De Telegraaf, dozens of fans were reportedly arrested in Amsterdam in the hours leading up to the game.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini (h/t Football Italia) took to Facebook live video to state that “around 120” fans had been arrested.
Per the report from De Telegraaf, fans near the Johan Cruyff Arena were “in possession of knives, clubs, pepper spray and flares.” Also, dozens of Ajax supporters were reported to have clashed with riot police in separate incidents outside the stadium and were eventually dispersed with the use of tear gas and water cannons.
The Mirror posted the following images on their Twitter page:
Man City forward Raheem Sterling Looking to Combat Racism on the Pitch
Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, who spoke out last month after being subjected to taunts during England’s game in Montenegro, is looking to take his fight against racism to the pitch, saying he would rather stay on the field than let racism force him to walk off of the pitch during a match.
Sterling’s manager Pep Guardiola, stated that he would support players walking off in protest if it happened again, in a strong statement that racism is simply not acceptable.
“I think everyone are entitled to their own opinions. My mum has taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and I am,” Sterling said, according to the Manchester Evening News.
“I wouldn’t personally agree with [walking off], to win the game would hurt them even more they’re only trying to get you down. If you walk off they win, to score or win would be better.
“Everyone’s different. Everyone has their own opinion, how they deal with things emotionally and you have to support everyone.”
Sterling opened up about the racism he has faced in his life, discussing when he first expereinced racism when he moved from North London up to the north-west back in 2010.
“I don’t think trying to make a difference or making a difference, it’s about speaking what you experience. Some people might shy away from it, if more players speak up that might be better.
“It’s offensive but growing up my mum always told me I’m a wonderful black child and I know this. When I hear it, it’s nothing new. I’m happy with it. I’m confident, I’m black and I’m proud. Some people can’t take it but my mum has always told me to love who I am.
“The first time I experienced racism is when I went up north to Liverpool – in London in schools and on a day-to-day basis you’re surrounded by a diverse community. Only a few occasions growing up in the academy in Liverpool, and then mainly in the last couple of years of being a professional.”
Birmingham City Fan Jailed for 14 Days for Punching Aston Villa Player
27-year old Paul Mitchel, a Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 days after he plead guilt to assaulting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Graelish during the derby on Sunday.
Mitchell rushed the pitch and took a swing at Graelish when the player’s back was turned at Birmingham City’s St. Andrew’s stadium during the Championship match on Sunday.
Mitchell admitted to invading the pitch and has been officially banned from attending any football match in the U.K. for up to 10 years, and was also ordered to pay £350 in total fines.
Graelish made a statement in which he described how he was “shocked and scared” by the attack.
“I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident,” he said (h/t ESPN). “It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”
“He cannot explain what came over himself yesterday morning,” Mitchell’s lawyer, Vaughn Whistance, said on Monday.
“His initial foolish intention was to go onto the pitch to whip up the crowd. He is certainly remorseful today. He is a man with a partner, they have a 2-year-old together and they’re expecting their second child.”
“This weekend a line has been crossed in terms of fan behaviour,” said a spokesperson for the FA.
“On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players.
“Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk.
“This is entirely unacceptable and we strongly condemn both incidents.
“We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch.
“In addition, we have written to both Birmingham City and Arsenal to seek their observations to examine the security measures they had in place.”
Birmingham City apologized to Grealish and Aston Villa and banned Mitchell for life.
“Birmingham City Football Club would like to apologise to Jack Grealish and Aston Villa Football Club for an incident in Sunday afternoon’s derby match,” a club statement said.
“We deplore the behaviour of the individual who committed this act and rest assured he will be banned from St. Andrew’s for life. The club will also support any further punishment this individual may face in the eyes of the law.
“The club will be working with the relevant authorities to investigate all the circumstances and we will be reviewing our stadium safety procedures.
“What happened has no place in football or society. Jack is a Birmingham lad and regardless of club allegiance should not have been subjected to this — there are no excuses.
“Again, we apologise to Jack and all at Aston Villa Football Club.”
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