THE FINALISSIMA COUNTDOWN
The biggest game of football tonight is, of course, the emotional World Cup qualifying playoff between Ukraine, currently under invasion by Russia, and Scotland, colonized since 1707. Good luck to one and all there. However in a masterclass of scheduling, another notable fixture is taking place this evening a few hundred miles south of Hampden Park. A Wembley showdown between European champions Italy and Copa America winners Argentina: the 2022 Finalissima!
[Fiver spends a couple of frantic minutes on Google]
The Finalissima – which is Italian for Grand Final, which is rugbyleaguespeak for Ersatz Super Bowl Lite Occasion – is a revival of the Artemio Franchi Cup which was [Fiver spends a bit more hectic time on Google] last played in 1993 between 1991 Copa America champions Argentina and Euro 92 surprise package Denmark. You, and by extension the Fiver, can be forgiven for not knowing too much about this trophy because (1) it wasn’t mentioned in Big Paper at the time, not a word; (2) there was only one previous staging, a highly random eight years earlier, France welcoming Uruguay to Paris in 1985, presumably without pepper spraying them; and (3) we occasionally forget that it’s not worth arranging things in a numbered list when you’ve only got two of them.
Anyway, now The Man has revived it, taken erstwhile Uefa president Franchi’s name off it, slapped on a new and suitably pompous moniker, and here we are, at long last, with edition number three. Tonight’s match will probably mean a little more to Italy, who ballsed up their World Cup qualification true and proper, again, and could do with something to cheer themselves up as a sullen and broken Roberto Mancini begins the Azzurri’s painful rebuild. Argentina wouldn’t say no either, mind you, on account of their being the proud, if almost certainly unaware, holders of the trophy for the last 29 years. For the record, the Albiceleste beat the Danes on penalties in 1993, while France won the other one 2-0, little-known sepia-toned facts that either lend the Finalissima a sense of history, or hammer home the point that it doesn’t t really matter and nobody cares.
ON BIG WEBSITE TONIGHT
Join Scott Murray for hot MBM coverage of Scotland 1-1 Ukraine (7-6 penalties) from 7.45pm BST.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I feel privileged to have played for this club. Many beautiful moments and memories but most importantly an unconditional support from the fans. Thank you Manchester United!” – Paul Pogba bids farewell to Old Trafford on Instagram, presumably with the sarcasm filter switched on.
MOVING THE GOALPOSTS
If you didn’t know, The Fiver has a new sister email! You don’t need to be told that it’s smarter and wittier than us – so sign up. The latest edition has been sent whistling into inboxes but you can get a taste here, a look at goalkeeping in the women’s game.
“Thanks guys for not including the link (yesterday’s Fiver) to Mr Squires’ skewering of Uefa panjandrums, French interior ministers and Alexander Trent Darby (is that right?). I had to go through the torturous process of finding it for myself, wasting valuable time seconds in the process” – Mat Owen.
“Spot on with the ‘Scotland have unenviable honor of a World Cup playoff with Ukraine’ (yesterday’s Fiver). Being a 55-year-old Scotsman I have total clairvoyance when it comes to the Scotland men’s team and their qualifying travails. Here’s what will happen: Scotland will beat Ukraine, 1-1 (7-6 penalties), and earn almost global approval for denying Ukraine the world stage they deserve. They will then lose 0-3 to Wales and miss out on the World Cup after all” – Hamish Brown.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is… Hamish Brown.
IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN
Prepare yourselves with a summer of tugs of war, transfer chests and big-money swoops with our all-singing all-dancing transfer interactives. Here’s the men’s version and here’s the women’s edition.
Get your ears in and around the latest Football Weekly. And while we’re at it, Max, Barry and the pod squad are going back on tour. Tickets to live shows in June and July are available here.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Anxiety, depression and eating disorders represent significant problems among elite female footballers competing in the Women’s Super League and Championship, according to a study.
Frenkie de Jong is the latest member of Ajax’s class of 2019 on Manchester United’s radar. Barcelona would want around £72m for the midfielder, who himself remains to be persuaded of the value of a move to a club without Big Cup action next season.
Elsewhere on the grapevine, West Ham are closing in on Rennes defender Nayef Aguerd and Real Madrid are sniffing around Raheem Sterling, having finally ended their relationship with Wales’s and golf’s Gareth Bale. “To wear the pristine white kit, to wear the crest on my chest, to play at the Santiago Bernabéu …” he over-emoted, “I can now look back, reflect and say with honesty that this dream became a reality and much, much more.”
West Ham’s Kurt Zouma has been ordered to carry out 180 hours’ community service for cat abuse and banned from keeping cats for five years.
Harry Maguire has opened up on the threats and abuse he has received during a difficult season. “There is a line, we are human beings,” he said, while Jude Bellingham has talked about the “disgusting” abuse Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho received after the Euros final last year.
England’s Leah Williamson has praised the new respect that the women’s team are being afforded within the national setup. “If you’d have gone back a couple of years this wouldn’t have been the case,” she said.
Leicester’s King Power Stadium will host this year’s Community Shield between Manchester City and Liverpool, with Wembley otherwise occupied on Women’s Euros duty.
STILL WANT MORE?
Ukraine players are showing their nation’s culture is alive and kicking, writes Nick Ames.
There is no excuse for Uefa echoing Hillsborough by instantly blaming Liverpool fans, writes David Conn.
‘Absolutely horrific’: Liverpool fans tells us about their experiences of the Champions League final chaos.
What was the highest and lowest xG in a Premier League game this season? The Knowledge has the answer.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!