Bah, international break. What an unwanted nuisance. There’s a big tournament coming up in the summer. Can’t we just wait for that and not interrupt the league season just so Roberto Martinez can call up an injured Thibaut Courtois, declare that he is indeed injured and send him back to his club? We never asked for this, you know. Nevertheless, let us continue our inquest into the events of the week gone by.
Gareth Southgate: England’s most un-English manager in a very long time has somehow got it in his head that building a team does not necessarily mean picking the best individuals and telling them to get on with it. In a rare display of tactical acumen and blatant disregard for tradition, Southgate left out several high-profile names from his squad for this round of friendlies. Instead, the likes of Jake Livermore got called up, which left most of us bemused and Baggies fans bewildered. This experimentation might well blow up in Southgate’s face at some point in the future, but it’s good to see someone in-charge of England who is not afraid to put on the lab coat and the safety goggles as he tries to come up with the perfect formula for his team.
Jesse Lingard: Just seems to pop up at the right place at the right time. Every bloody time.
Gareth Bale: Beat the prolific Joe Allen in the race to become the all-time record goalscorer for Wales.
Ryan Giggs: Swansea’s loss is Wales’ gain. It was only China, but so far Giggs has a 100% win record as the manager of his national team. Jose Mourinho better start looking over his shoulder now.
Ronaldo: You can’t call Mohamed Salah the ‘Egyptian Messi’ and expect Ronaldo to take it lying down. The Portuguese cyborg scored twice in added time at the end of the 90 minutes to win it for his team and render Salah’s strike meaningless.
Radamel Falcao: Still banging them in at the ripe old age of 54.
Willy Caballero: International debut and a clean sheet! A pity no one actually turned up to see it.
Jack Wilshere: You wouldn’t expect any different from England’s man of glass. After being recalled to the England squad the Arsenal midfielder almost immediately pulled out of said squad due to injury. See, this is how Jake Livermore gets called up.
Italy: Still a bit rubbish and coasting along until Antonio Conte becomes available at the end of the Premier League season. Or sooner, if they’re lucky and Roman Abramovich has had one vodka shot too many.
Paul Pogba: Why did no one bother to tell him that you never go back? After returning to Manchester United for a world record fee, the French midfielder has flattered to deceive. He appears to have fallen out with his club manager, who does not trust him in the big games. His confidence is shot and his fitness is lacking. Didier Deschamps took one look at him and went, “Sacrebleau! What happened to you?” before plonking him on the bench. As if to prove a point, Pogba turned out to be a waste of a substitution when he did come on as France gave up a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 to Colombia.
Ronald Koeman: Still can’t buy a win. At least this time he’s not spending a billionaire’s money while he’s at it.
Danny Rose: Danny fell further down the ladder as his rustiness prevented him from playing the way he used to before he decided Spurs weren’t big enough for him. It might be time for Google plane tickets to the Bahamas in the summer, old chap. The plane to Russia might be leaving without him.
England Fans: A hundred arrests. And it was just a friendly. If the England supporters behave the same way in Russia, they would very likely have seven shades of sh*t beaten out of them by the Russian police and supporters’ mobs. No England match is complete without a handful of buffoons ruining it with their terrace chants from the 1940s, their regressive views on racism or the traditional English breakfast of fisticuffs and broken beer bottles. One hopes that those fortunate enough to be able to attend the tournament in Russia don’t forget to carry their wits and common sense along with their passport and tickets. It shouldn’t be too difficult, seeing as England are due back home after the first knockout round.