01 Dec 2021 | 06:39 | Football
England play tonight. Did you forget? Don’t beat yourself up, The Fiver did too. But here we all are, nearly midway through what seems like the 103rd international break of the season, and all the soul-crushing tedium will finally bear sweet juicy fruit tonight when England beat Albania at Wembley and effectively secure their qualification for the World Cup next [grits teeth] winter. With a final game in San Marino, the lowest-ranked nation in Europe, to come, England are going to get over the line, right, despite making a bit of a meal of the final stretch with those recent draws against Poland and Hungary? It’s going to catapult The Fiver into a world of high amusement if not. Well, something has to.
But England should make it, shouldn’t they, especially as they only need a draw tonight to secure automatic qualification, pending the I-dotting, T-crossing exercise on Monday against San Marino, for whom Davide Gualtieri no longer plays. England saw off the Albanians easily enough in Tirana in March, 2-0, admittedly during those sepia-toned halcyon days when Harry Kane was good. The other scorer that night, incidentally, was Mason Mount, a doubt for this evening’s game having been spotted earlier this week in the back of a taxi slurring his words despite it being only 2.30 in the afternoon.
Still, England have enough in reserve to haul themselves over the line, with Emile Smith Rowe in the frame to make his debut, and Jack Grealish available after illness to add even more cherubic sass to Gareth Southgate’s young talent-rich squad. One last push, then, and by 10pm they will have all but booked their tickets for the World Cup next [grinds teeth to powder, phones up Mason’s pusher] winter. And if we’ve jumped the gun on this one, England crashing to shock defeat this evening, fans of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and teams representing all current members of the EU can thank the Fiver for tempting fate by sending bouquets, chocolates, cash, trinkets, etc, to the usual address.
Join John Brewin at 5pm (GMT) for minute-by-minute updates of Moldova 0-2 Scotland and then Scott will be on hand for England 3-0 Albania at 7.45pm.
“Idiots buy football clubs. But I am an idiot” – Robbie Savage not holding back on Robbie Savage as he reveals why he bought into Macclesfield.
Football Weekly joins forces with Today in Focus to bring you Michael Safi’s interview with Josh Cavallo, the world’s only openly gay male top-tier footballer.
“Thanks for this …” – Gerard Beeby (and no other polite/sarcastic readers).
“Based on David Newton’s trip to Prague in the late 90s (yesterday’s Fiver), Dukla should be grateful not to have been under the jurisdiction of the English Premier League, who would surely have frowned on them having away shirts to give away in the home changing rooms” – Peter Sadler.
“I completely understand that this is ludicrously niche but if you actually listen to Half Man Half Biscuit’s festive offering it’s actually about getting a Subbuteo team in the elusive away kit. They obviously never thought about getting out their Airfix paints” – John De la Cruz.
“Sticking with the footballers with names not suitable for broadcast (Fiver passim), the local language TV channel in Galicia in north west Spain felt that a certain Dutchman had too risqué a name. In Galician ‘Cocu’ means ‘with the bum’ so to avoid phrases like ‘meteu gol Cocu’ which would have a literal meaning of ‘he scored with his bum’ he was renamed and his name pronounced as ‘co key’” – Enrique Nespereira.
“I remember the Norwegian player Einer Aas from my teens. He was at Nottingham Forest for a while. If I remember well it was Brian Moore on the big match that wrestled with it, changing it to something like ‘Einer Ors’” – David Cross.
Send your letters to email@example.com. And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Peter Sadler.
Former RAF officer David Henderson has been jailed for his role in arranging the flight on which Emiliano Sala was killed following a crash.
Ron Flowers, Wolves legend and England 1966 World Cup squad member, has died aged 87.
PSG’s Aminata Diallo has been released without charge as police continue to investigate a violent assault against her teammate and fellow midfielder Kheira Hamraoui.
Homeless charity Shelter has criticised the Premier League over its refusal to support its Boxing Day #NoHomeKits campaign. “We are disappointed by the Premier League’s decision not to provide any flexibility to make this as big as can be,” said Shelter’s director of campaigns, Osama Bhutta. “People should have a safe home, and far too many don’t – that is the biggest rule that has been broken here.”
Norwich City are not going to be Frank Lampard’s Norwich City.
Gareth Southgate’s England look set to continue as such until 2024
Wales have been guaranteed a Human Rights World Cup qualification play-off place thanks to Spain’s win in Greece and various Nations League permutations that we still can’t quite get our head round, or be bothered to. While Republic O’Ireland enjoyed a 0-0 moral victory over Portugal.
Steve Clarke has hinted he’s got a cob on over Ryan Fraser’s withdrawal from Scotland’s HR World Cup qualifier against Moldova, having been photographed training with his club. “I have a squad of players who want to be here. They’re all here so let’s talk about those boys,” he huffed.
Brazil have qualified, as per.
And there’s fresh injury mither for Jürgen Klopp after Sadio Mané was withdrawn early in Senegal’s HR World Cup qualifier with Togo. “We took him off as a precaution,” soothed Senegal boss Aliou Cissé.
The FSA Awards are coming soon and various members of Big Website are up for gongs. Vote now and vote regularly.
Port Vale: winning on the pitch, doing nice things off it. Ben Fisher goes behind the scenes at the League Two high-fliers.
Paul Doyle runs the rule over $tevie MBE’s in-tray as he settles in at Aston Villa.
The always-tasty USA! USA!! USA!!!-Mexico rivalry ramps up another notch as the pair face off in a Human Rights World Cup qualifier this weekend. Cesar Hernandez reports.
And if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!
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