DEJAN VU ALL OVER AGAIN
During the Ethics World Cup, Dejan Lovren was the darling among those grubbing for a sentence, a word, a mere arching of the eyebrow from footballers as they traipsed past hacks taking urgent phone calls or struggling with a particularly troublesome earbud. Lovren would stand in front of the massed quote-seekers, shooting from the hip and giving the impression that he’d happily come along for a post-match loosener if there wasn’t a bus to catch.
So it was to Lovren that we all turned our hopes after Croatia’s barnstorming late win over Spain and the great man failed to disappoint. This time he was considerate enough to make his views accessible to sofa-dwelling lummoxes like The Fiver, saving his deepest and darkest thoughts for an obscure social media disgrace called Instachat. “Haha! 3-2! Go ahead and talk now buddy. Buddy! They are a bunch of pussies,” appears to have been the gist of the video he posted, with Sergio Ramos and his ever-angular elbows the particular subjects of his attention. He followed that with a photo of himself beating Ramos in the air, captioned: “Good morning Croatia.” Ramos, who wrote the book on inflammatory niggliness and added an epilogue in bold when he casually tapped Mohamed Salah on the shoulder during the Big Cup groups draw, cooled things down by, erm, definitely staying cool. “Cold as ice,” he wrote in a response of his own, leaving nobody in any doubt about his conversion to a beacon of Buddha-style forbearance.
Boys will be boys but it did, at least, ensure the current in Nations League group A4 continued to run in various directions and, in Gareth Southgate’s words, ensure somebody in Geneva must be “proudly patting himself on the back” at the way Uefa’s new baby has developed. He meant Uefa suits, rather than Ramos, would be disposed towards touchy-feeliness: on the pitch and off it the new format has brought far more storylines, moments of drama and instances of aggro than your standard pile of Wayne Rooney-less friendlies. Lovren v Ramos does not make anyone look particularly good, objectively, but it adds to the sense of box office that the Nations League needed and thoughts now turn to who the Liverpool defender might seek to rile in Monday’s winner-takes-all meeting at Wembley.
Rooney would have been a good bet, actually, but he’s already said his teary farewells and will presumably be watching the real action from the USA! USA!! USA!!!. Perhaps the imperturbable Harry Kane, who comfortably had Lovren’s number until that July night in Moscow, is due a social media smackdown. Either way, emotions are hardly going to be in neutral after matters are resolved at Wembley; those waiting in the mixed zone will hold out hope that he can be coaxed out for that pint after all.
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Join Jacob Steinberg for hot clockwatch coverage of the Netherlands 1-2 France and Wales 1-1 Denmark, from 7.45pm GMT.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“What I wasn’t too big for was to go into the police force, so I signed up. They loved it. Because I was 6ft 4in, I was put straight into the middle of Nottingham city centre because that’s where the trouble was. I had a fantastic time, really enjoyed the job, it was very exciting. I was good at the physical aspect of things, clearing bars, clubs, lots of incidents regarding alcohol and aggression” – in the first piece of a new series on 90s throwbacks, Steve Ogrizovic gets his chat on with Michael Butler about how he became a top, top member of the fuzz.
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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Roma will donate €150,000 towards the medical care and rehabilitation costs of Sean Cox, the Liverpool fan attacked by Roma supporters and seriously injured in April.
Olivier Giroud says he “understands the pain and difficulty” that stops players coming out. “There is a lot of testosterone, rooming together, collective showers … It’s tricky but it’s like that,” he said.
Cambridge City’s 2-1 Women’s FA Cup win over Cambridge United must be replayed because the pitch appears to have been fun-sized. “The pitch measured 94 metres long and 58.7 metres wide. It was almost 14% below the minimum requirement and in our opinion, this is a major irregularity,” roared a Cambridge United suit.
Next stop: Wembley on Sunday.
Manchester United’s wage bill has jumped 10% thanks largely to luxury squad player Alexis Sánchez wheelbarrowing away around £300,000 a week.
Gordon Taylor potentially faces the most serious challenge in his 474-year tenure as PFA chief suit after the union’s chairman, Ben Purkiss, called for an independent review.
And Ryan Giggs wants Wales to be “among the big boys” by beating Denmark and earning promotion to Group A of a tournament nobody understands or cares about. “You get a second bite of the cherry with regards to qualifying for the Euros if you don’t qualify automatically,” he wibbled.
STILL WANT MORE?
Richard Scudamore’s golden trousering sits awkwardly next to fudged pledges to help football’s grassroots, writes Proper Journalism’s David Conn.
Quiz of the week!
Sid Lowe chews the fat with Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic, who tells him: “We saw Football’s Coming Home and thought: yeah, but you still have to play us.” Oof.
Why Bristol’s Tanya Oxtoby has a unique coaching perspective.
Eni Aluko feels sympathy towards Slavisa Jokanovic.
Barney Ronay on Wayne Rooney’s farewell.
And here’s Jacob Steinberg on why Jadon Sancho and Callum Wilson showed that England’s future looks rosy.
Ben Fisher speaks to Abingdon United defender and student Jayce Olivero, on what it’s like raising his game to compete against Eden Hazard on international duty with Gibraltar.
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