As the Confederations Cup drew to a close on Sunday evening, fans desperate for football wept inside and out. Two weeks of tennis and still over a month until the real football is back. Well wipe those tears away, there’s always a game for you.
Monday 3rd July
I didn’t say they were good games. Your Monday action is limited to Scandanavia, and a chance to check out the Norwegian champions Rosenborg. They’re top of the table again but just two points ahead of second place Brann. They face a tricky (probably) trip to Kristiansund, who are just outside of the relegation places. Nicklas Bendtner might get on for Rosenborg, whereas Kristiansund have an Irishman called Sean McDermott in goal. He’s an example of what can happen if you don’t make the breakthrough at Arsenal. Anyway, betting sites at 6pm if you’re desperate.
Tuesday 4th July
The BBC Sport Website broadcast TNS vs Europa of Gibraltar last week, and would you believe, the Gibraltese side won 2-1. That means TNS have it all to do in the return leg if they are to make the next round of this Champions League qualifier, but you never know. Also in Champions League action are Northern Irish side Linfield, who scored an 89th-minute winner to defeat La Fiorita of San Marino in the first leg. Can they cling on in the second leg? Linfield are managed by David Healy, don’t you know. Rangers are also in action, as they travel to Luxembourg for the 2nd leg of their 1st qualifying round Europa League match. They are defending a 1-0 lead, so that might help.
Wednesday 5th July
Barely a day goes by without somebody telling me how underrated the J League is. If you’re at a loose end at 11am on Wednesday, you can put that theory to the test as 4th place Gamba Osaka face 3rd place Kashima Antlers. The Antlers are defending champions, whereas Gamba are captained by Yasuhito Endō, which doesn’t sound a big deal but the lad has 152 caps for Japan. Do you have 152 caps for Japan?
Thursday 6th July
I admit I’ve been scraping the barrel at times so far, but get ready to have those tiny ankle summer socks knocked off. Nothing gets my pulse racing more than the first qualifying round of the Europa League, especially when it’s the 2nd leg. With Rangers playing on Tuesday, it means the spotlight (or more likely a street lamp) is on St Johnstone, as they travel to Lithuania to try and overturn a 2-1 deficit against FK Trakai. I was amazed to see a quote from Saints manager Tommy Wright in which he said, “every one of the teams in this competition are all probably technically better than us, that’s why we can’t allow them time on the ball.” I admire his honesty, I think, but surely the fourth best team in Scotland can match up with the 2nd best team in Lithuania? To make matters worse, the Lithuanian side play on a plastic pitch which rules out St Johnstone striker Steven MacLean, who doesn’t do plastic pitches due to his bad knee. Still, man management aside, I believe in Tommy Wright. He played for Newcastle in two different spells and you can’t buy that kind of loyalty.
Friday 7th July
Quite often I find myself wishing I had some football to watch at 1.30am. Luckily for me, that is exactly what I have this week as there’s some white hot MLS action coming your way. Top of the Western Conference Sporting Kansas City host Philadelphia Union, who are 9th in the Eastern Conference. Don’t you just love the MLS? You have to say Sporting Kansas can put their success down to a relative lack of former terrible Premier League players, so we’ll have to settle for giggling childishly at hilarious names like Colton Storm. They do have Roger Espinoza who played for Wigan a handful of times, so there’s that. Over at Philadelphia, I am delighted to see former Hull and Leyton Orient man (Homer) Jay Simpson on their roster, not to mention Giliano Wijnaldum, brother of Gini. What I’m trying to say is, it’s worth getting up at 1.30am for. Honestly.
Saturday 8th July
They kept this pretty quiet, didn’t they? Saturday sees the start of the 2017 Gold Cup. I mean, it’s actually Friday on USA time (the host nation) but it’s midnight UK time, so just hold your complaints a second. The very first match is Canada vs French Guiana, that’s at midnight. Then at 2am, it’s Honduras vs Costa Rica, which is pretty much as big as it gets. The prime time game though is USA vs Panama, at 9.30pm UK time. Those two are joined in Group B by Martinique and Nicaragua, so if the USA don’t win that group something has gone horrendously wrong. There will be sporadic Gold Cup updates, I think it’s best to keep it that way.
Sunday 9th July
One league I don’t think we’ve really covered so far is the Brazilian League. The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A to give it it’s Sunday name (fittingly) is 10 games in and I think it’s about time we took a look at it. My game of choice is Cruzeiro (10th) against 4th placed Palmeiras, mainly because on my search for notable players I found the Cruzeiro squad contained a Brazilian called Bryan and a centre-half nicknamed Kunty. We all know a centre-half like that but is there any need? I’m sure it’s innocent. Palmeiras have Ze Roberto playing for them, and I know you’re all thinking “do your research he retired years ago” well guess what? He’s 42! He’s said this is his last season, but he’s said that a few times. So we’ll see. Anyway, 8pm kickoff, Bet365. Get there.
That’s it from me this week, join me next week as we edge ever closer to Pre-Season and more Gold Cup shenanigans.