The international break used to be a moment when the hardy football fan could take a breather and catch up with some cleaning, go ballistic with a leaf blower or oil those rusty front door hinges (three tasks on the list that LLL failed to do). Or simply watch every show that exists on Netflix (other streaming services available.) But then the global Powers That Be – television companies, basically – decided that games should take place across the globe over six days from Thursday to Tuesday rather than having everyone done and dusted on two different days. Economical.
Paco for PM
So it has been a daily stream of teams qualifying for this or the other, failing to do so, or players going and getting themselves injured. More on that later. Of course, the only match that LLL gives a hoot about is Spain’s Euro 2016-clinching 4-0 win over Luxembourg which booked La Roja's place in France.
The three talking points for the chattering press classes concerned the lack of any Real Madrid player in the starting line-up for the first time since 2009, the fact that Diego Costa should be told to ‘do one’ permanently as Alvaro Morata and Pablo Alcácer are far better – and less big-boned – as well as the future of Vicente del Bosque.
The moustachioed maestro was supposedly heading into retirement after the Euros, but has been hinting that a continuation might be on the cards. On Thursday, the Spain manager said that he would be speaking to his bosses about his future after France 2016. And apparently his bosses would love him to stay on, although, according to AS, Spain’s biggest grouch José Antonio Camacho is a favourite of the Federation.
Unfortunately the potty-mouthed coach, who was in charge of the Spanish side between 1998 and 2002, only polled around three per cent in a survey to replace Del Bosque should he decide to step down (after one too many questions about Gerard Piqué being booed).
The winner was the immensely popular Paco Jémez of Rayo Vallecano, a coach with a loud-and-proud attacking philosophy. LLL suspects he only won as it would mean that Paco wasn't leading the pollers’ own La Liga teams into Kamikaze-style 7-0 defeats to Barcelona. Pep Guardiola and Unai Emery also got strong support. LLL’s own choice – Joaquín Caparrós – only pulled around five per cent. Boo.
There has been a lot of grumbling about the FIFA Virus and players getting themselves injured on international duty. Karim Benzema’s potential three-week absence has certainly spooked Real Madrid, what with him being their only proper striker (although it probably sent Isco and Jesé into whoops of happiness). However, La Liga has gotten off fairly lightly, with Manchester City hit hardest by injuries.
But there was at last some space left for a bit of idling or getting those aforementioned mundane tasks done. Some poor so-and-so in Marca was given the job of tracing the birth place of every player in La Primera. The discovery was that players of 53 different nationalities are plying their trade in Spain’s top flight, 287 of them from Spain itself, with the Madrid region providing the most (33).
The side with most Johnny Foreigners in the squad is Málaga with 19; Athletic Bilbao are unsurprisingly harbouring the fewest – Aymeric Laporte is the only player born outside the borders. At least there was still a small space left for whimsy on what is an increasingly cluttered international calendar.
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