FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
Assorted Fiver relatives have got that “Friday feeling” and not just because it’s the final day of a long week’s graft. Down in Cardiff, our valley-dwelling, rarebit-eating, baritone Welsh cousin Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Fiver is sacrificing his weekly visit to Castle Bingo on the Newport Road, because he’s got a ticket for his country’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Group E whipping boys Azerbaijan, a game his country simply must win if they are to have any chance of making the plane to what promises to be an in-no-way-parochial jamboree set to be staged in – deep breath – London, Munich, Rome, Baku, Saint Petersburg, Bucharest, Dublin, Amsterdam, Bilbao, Budapest, Glasgow and Copenhagen next summer.
Having made the semi-finals under Chris Coleman last time around, Wales have rather lost their mojo since he quit and they bowed to popular demand and gave it Giggsy. Despite committing more to his country as a manager than he ever did as a player by deigning to turn up for all their matches, the former winger has struggled to emulate his predecessor’s success. “With two defeats, you’re up against it,” he drawled in the build-up to Friday’s game. “But it’s still early in the group, and there are points to play for. If we’re going to qualify we need to win our home games.” Given this kind of stirring Churchillian rhetoric and the fact that Azerbaijan are ranked 85 places below them by Fifa, anything less than a win against the boys from Baku would be little short of tragic.
Meanwhile in Glasgow, our dram-drinking, bagpipes-playing, see-you-Jimmy-saying Scottish cousin Shortbread McFiver has a bottle in hand as he prepares for his team’s make-or-break double-header against Russia and Belgium, to be played on Friday night and Monday. Currently fourth in the group with six points, Scotland find themselves in a position that is only likely to change in the current international break if Cyprus beat San Marino and Kazakhstan, and overtake them.
“It’s about time that we as a nation, rather than being on the receiving end, are dishing out a result that’s deemed an upset,” blared manager Steve Clarke, invoking the spirit of William Wallace. “Hopefully Friday night can be the case.” Unlike Wales, Scotland do at least have the luxury of a safety net in the play-off place they secured from their heroics in the Nations League. Whatever happens later, somebody will leave Hampden Park upset and we suspect it might be a certain highly-strung and short-fused Scottish relative.
LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE
Join Ben Fisher for hot clockwatch coverage of the day’s Euro 2020 qualifiers from 7.45pm BST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“That was the first time I’ve ever watched a match with fans of my team, if that makes sense. I’m either always in the stadium or at home. I was shocked. I’ve never been to a pub where there’s a bunch of Liverpool fans or Arsenal fans and watched it with them, never been to a pub with England fans to see what it means to them and it was surreal. I could see my mates on the screen doing what I usually do and how everyone around them was reacting. I was almost idolising them as well. Just seeing what they were doing and what that created around me I was like: oh my God, do I really do that?” – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on watching an England World Cup game at Boxpark in Shoreditch.
“This may be a better way to STOP FOOTBALL than anything The Fiver has proposed so far. I can see it particularly catching on at Nottingham Forest, especially if Chris Woods is brought back between the sticks” – Tony Crawford.
“Hi Fiver, I have been unimpressed of late with the letters section. Please advise when the prizeless letter o’ the day will once again be awarded a prize, as I have some corkers ready to unleash on you (but I’m keeping my powder dry until it’s worth my while)” – Dexter O’Riordan [soon – Fiver Ed].
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Tony Crawford.
Football Weekly Extra is right here. Meanwhile, the live shows are heading to Manchester and Leeds, though the latter is now sold out.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Malaysian FA suits will file a formal complaint to Fifa after bottles and flares were hurled at their fans during the World Cup qualifying win in Indonesia. “Gangsterism will not be tolerated in any way,” sniffed sports minister Syed Saddiq.
Sheffield Wednesday are set to announce their new boss, with Garry Monk favourite to take over and make it 20.83% of the current Championship that he’s managed.
Diego Maradona is back, baby, having been appointed manager of Argentina’s Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata.
Two-time Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya has joined South African football team JVW FC. “I appreciate the love and support I already get from the team,” she cheered.
This may leave you reeling, but the Republic O’Ireland scored a single goal and drew a game, this time against Switzerland. “We’re not the best team in the group but I’ll tell you what, you’re going to have to put our players down before they give up,” roared manager and, er, team farmer Mick McCarthy.
And a Newcastle bookshop is looking for publicity and, in this instance, given the amount sent in L’il Mickey Owen’s direction this week, we’re happy to oblige. Though it’s also likely just given him more too. Oh.
STILL WANT MORE?
High-profile games and signings give new WSL season a perfect platform. By Eni Aluko.
Ten things to look out for in the Women’s Super League. By Fadumo Olow.
Is English goalkeeping heading towards a golden era? By Alex Hess.
Inside the Grêmio academy. By Joshua Law and Tom Sanderson.
Georgi Asparuhov – the Bulgarian artist who stunned England. By Metodi Shumanov.
The new England revolution. By Paul MacInnes.
Maidstone’s revival offers Bury hope. By Richard Foster.
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