Tales Black

Last week we saw some things. Things that weren’t always good, like a game where the cameras were on opposite sides of the pitch depending which channel you watched. That was weird. We saw some incredible things, like England Under 20s winning the World Cup. How do we top that? Well, my friends, we have two tournaments starting this week and everybody’s favourite national team are in action again. Our cup, it doth overflow.

Monday 12th June

After the excitement* of the latest round of World Cup qualifiers in the European section, it’s important to remember that this excitement is being spread around the globe by the beautiful game. The USA face Mexico in the early hours of Monday, before this article is even published. So although that’ll be a decent game, we’ll ignore it. What we’re going to focus on is the always hotly contested Asian Qualifying Section, as group A leaders Iran welcome 3rd place Uzbekistan. It’s on Bet365 at 5.45pm, and a win would mean Iran qualify for next summer’s finals. Uzbekistan are looking to hold on to their third place which will put them in a playoff and against Australia as it stands, though Group B includes Japan and Saudi Arabia too and is a lot tighter. See, you’re really looking forward to it now, aren’t you?

*Relative excitement

Tuesday 13th June

Don’t you just love an International Friendly to finish the season? Can you imagine how half -hearted this is going to be, with this one match standing between you and the beach? England travel to France for an International Friendly, live on ITV. If you like seeing Jesse Lingard, this is the game for you. Seriously, what is anybody hoping to learn from this? If we win, it’ll be dismissed as a meaningless friendly. If we lose, nobody cares anyway. We’re not going to win the World Cup and this proves it. We played so bad on Saturday in a match that mattered. Imagine how rough this is going to be.

Wednesday 14th June

I mentioned Mexico vs USA briefly earlier but things are about to get interesting. The CONCACAF (Central, North American and Caribbean countries) qualifying section is fierce. We’re up to the fifth and final round which is a group of 6. The top 3 go through automatically to the 2018 World Cup, whereas 4th must face the winner of the Asian section playoff (you know, the Uzbekistan vs Australia/anybody else scenario I painted in Monday’s roundup). Anyway, the group looks like an absolute mess, with only Mexico in double figures after 5 games. So, picture the scene. It’s 3am, you’re not tired. You need football. Load up Bet365 and you can watch Costa Rica vs Trinidad and Tobago! T&T have only managed one win so far, that was a 1-0 success over Panama which sounds just awful. Costa Rica are 2nd, having beaten the USA 4-0, and lest we forget they knocked England out of the last World Cup (in a roundabout sort of way). So you never know, it might be good.

Thursday 15th June

Look, I’ve always said it, the Finnish League is underrated. You can see just how misunderstood it is by watching league leaders HJK Helsinki face bottom club JJK at 4.30pm on the usual betting sites. What I did find whilst researching this is that Shefki Kuqi is a manager over there, but sadly not of either of these teams. Helsinki are captained by a Brazilian called Rafinha, who seemed to make his name at Gent during their Champions League exploits of a few years ago. I say made his name, he’s now in the Finnish league so maybe he didn’t. Helsinki’s number 9 is called Demba Savage. I like that.

Friday 16th June

Tournament alert! After the success of the England Under 20s, attention turns to the Under 21s as the European Under 21 Championships get underway in Poland. Sky Sports have the whole competition live for your viewing pleasure. England are in action in the very first game against Sweden, with the key players looking to be Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse, Tammy Abraham, Jordan Pickford and Calum Chambers to name just a few of a very promising squad. Why isn’t there an Under 21 World Cup? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, I’m sure there’s a reason why we restrict our Under 21s to European action only.

Saturday 17th June

What’s better than one new sub-par summer tournament? TWO sub-par summer tournaments! The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup kicks off on Saturday, and is being covered live on ITV here in the UK. I haven’t checked the schedule but I’d assume that’s ITV4 for the most part. If you’re not aware, the Confederations Cup is a sort of dress rehearsal so the World Cup hosts, in this case Russia, can prepare for hosting a tournament. The 8 teams involved are the 7 winners of the various Confederations’ tournaments – so Germany are there as World Cup winners, Portugal as Euro 2016 winners and so on. Russia are the 8th team as hosts. I mean it won’t be vintage but it’s competitive football  and it lasts for 2 weeks, so here at Tales we are all over it like a rash. The first game on Saturday involves the hosts Russia taking on New Zealand. That one is actually on ITV with a 4pm kick off

Sunday 18th June

The Confederations Cup offering is Portugal vs Mexico but there’s also a second game as Cameroon take on Chile in Group B (there are two groups of 4). There is of course the Under 21 Championship alternative, as you can see the penalty kings of the future Germany battle the Czech Republic, or the late game is Denmark vs Italy. It’s a veritable feast of football by this stage.

You’ll be pleased to know I’m on holiday for a week so there’ll be no schedule for the week beginning the 19th June. But there’s Confederations Cup and/or Under 21 Tournament action every single day so you don’t need my nonsense to keep you informed on that front. I’ll be back on the 26th – watch a game for me, won’t you?