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The Fiver | A prevailing mood in Italy of pessimistic panic | Football


NOT SO ACE VENTURA

The year 1958 featured several milestones. The EEC came into being. The first successful American satellite, Explorer 1 was launched into orbit. Women were allowed sit in the House of Lords for the first time. Milestones, the studio album by jazz trumpeting’s self-styled Prince of Darkness, Miles Davis was released and for the first time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup. Back then, Gian Piero Ventura was nowt but a fresh-faced 10-year-old gadding about the streets of Genoa, who would have had no idea that almost six decades later he’d be within 90 minutes of masterminding what would be only his country’s second ever failure to qualify for a World Cup.

Having been comprehensively outplayed and beaten by a fairly mediocre Sweden side in Stockholm, Italy have a job on their hands to overturn their 1-0 first-leg deficit in Milan on Monday night. And having bamboozled his stereotypically excitable compatriots with a series of baffling formations and team selections since replacing Antonio Conte, Ventura appears to have been inundated with no end of unsolicited offers of help. “I’ve received so much advice in the past few days that, if I tried to listen to it all, it would take months,” he parped. “I know that’s how it works when you are coach of the national team although I didn’t expect it to be quite like this.”

Despite having signed a two-year contract extension shortly before sending his team out to get slaughtered by Spain in the qualifiers playing a 4-2-4 formation, speculation abounds in Italy that Ventura will have plenty of spare time to belatedly listen to all this advice. More than one Italian newspaper has reported that he will be sacked even if Italy manage to scrape past Sweden, with Carlo Ancelotti and his amazingly quizzical eyebrow the nation’s preferred choice to fix whatever mess is left this time tomorrow. But while the prevailing mood in Italy is one of pessimistic panic, at least they still have a chance of qualifying for Russia. That’s more than can be said for Norn Iron Nil, whose chances of qualifying for their first finals since 1986 were ultimately dashed by a goal scored from a penalty even their Swiss opposition had the good grace to seem fairly embarrassed to be awarded.

One publication described it as “a beautiful present from the referee” Ovidiu Hategan, who was roundly disparaged on social media in slightly more colourful, politically incorrect and racially abusive terms by Lisa Evans, the wife of defender Corry, who was incorrectly penalised for the handball that led to the Swiss spot-kick. Evans subsequently apologised “unreservedly” for his wife’s outburst, while his other half has also sort of said sorry. In even more depressing news for Norn Iron Nil fans, the odds on their manager Michael O’Neill abandoning ship have since been slashed to ribbons with a machete. Highly regarded and based in Edinburgh, O’Neill is now the even-money favourite to take over the vacant Scotland job. It would appear that having sampled World Cup heartbreak, he has quickly developed a taste for it and despite the best attempts of Norn Iron and Italy, nobody quite does it like the Scots.

LIVE ON BIG WEBSITE

Join Michael Butler from 7.45pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of Italy 1-0 Sweden (agg: 1-1, 10-9 on pens).

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I used to get annoyed when people said things about me that weren’t true … It went like this: ‘Uh, this guy likes rock and roll, so he must like whisky, and on top of that he smokes. He must be drinking whisky until five in the morning, and I’m sure that he takes drugs, too … No, brother, I’m not Messi. I wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed if I did all that. I still have to go to bed early, eat salad and rest well … Afterwards, of course I like to drink whisky, smoke a cigarette and do rock and roll” – Dani Osvaldo, last seen having retired from football in order to focus on his “music career”, denies spending his days drinking and smoking by pointing out, erm, he likes a drink and a smoke.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

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What are the challenges facing away fans in the age of televised football? – video

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Football Weekly will be here shortly, unless you’re reading this later, in which case it ought to be here now.

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FIVER LETTERS

“So, Mike Hopkins’ telly-based missive makes it into the Fiver letters for two days in a row. It really is all just bloody repeats and reboots these days, isn’t it?” – Derek McGee (and 1,056 others).

“Memphis Depay brings a new dimension to the idea of a player ‘going missing’ during matches. According to Friday’s Bits and Bobs he was found in Glasgow when he was meant to be playing 150 miles away in Aberdeen” – Phil Mollicone (and 1,056 others).

“Re: backlogs of Fivers. Ben Graham would rather have kidney stones than do his job (Friday’s Fiver letters)? The real question here is whether he would prefer to read through a backlog of 89 Fivers or have kidney stones. I’ve experienced both and can say that the intense and excruciating pain, the never-ending uncertainty and the heavy drugs were very tough to deal with at times. And having kidney stones was no walk in the park either” – Frank Joyce.

“The combination of Neighbours and Taxpayers FC’s incompetencies (Fiver passim) induced a flashback: the summer of 1990, in the stockroom of the club shop at Upton Park. I was working in the shop and we used to huddle in the stockroom to watch Neighbours at lunchtime on a tiny black and white TV. Ludek Miklosko popped his head in once, I think he’d just been signed, and we had to explain that we were only watching it to catch a glimpse of Kylie. He didn’t understand. I say club shop, it was a tiny portable cabin stuffed full of Bukta gear. I can still smell the flame retardant. How far Taxpayers FC have come. Do any other readers have any football-related Neighbours stories? Probably just me” – Jimmy O’Brien.

“If I may follow-up Marten Allens’s missive about meeting Brad Friedel (Friday’s letters), as a Fulham fan living in Stroud I was at a petrol station one sleepy afternoon many summers ago when a very tall bloke got out of a flash car to fill up. Well, he looked like a footballer. I said to him ‘aren’t you Zat Knight?’ ‘How do you know that?’ he asked. The number plate was ZAT 1” – Mike Waring.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. And if you’ve nothing better to do you can also tweet The Fiver. Today’s winner of our letter o’the day is … Frank Joyce, who wins a copy of Football Manager 2018, thanks to the good people at Football Manager Towers. We’ve got plenty more to give away, so keep typing.

THE RECAP

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NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Leicester City owners King Power are facing corruption charges in Thailand after being accused of short-changing the Thai government of the small matter of £327m.

Every Football League ground will display rainbow-coloured corner flags between 25 November and 3 December in support of Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign.

Lancashire police arrested BBC pundit Trevor Sinclair on suspicion of drink-driving and common assault after a vehicle driven from his house was involved in a collision with a woman.

Gareth Southgate is pondering staging a mock penalty shootout at Wembley so his side can get used to effing them up in front of a crowd. “That is an option,” he parped, as slavering Pizza Hut advertising execs circled.

‘This is how it’s don … ah.’



‘This is how it’s don … ah.’ Photograph: Keogh for FA/Rex/Shutterstock

Exciting times on several fronts at Taw Ham for David Moyes, who is making Stuart Pearce, Alan Irvine and Billy McKinlay his assistants, while stepping up his unique brand of motivational chat. “If it works [here], great,” he cheered. “If it doesn’t, then I’ll see the East End of London for seven months, then I’ll go elsewhere.”

Sadio Mané is on a flight back to Liverpool from Senegal duty with a case of hamstring-hmmm. “It is a concern,” harrumphed Jürgen Klopp.

Hot steam is still pouring out of Gabriel Batistuta’s ears after Lionel Messi broke his Argentina scoring record last June. “It was a title that I held. It’s not just any old thing. You go around the world and people say, ‘He’s the top scorer for the Argentina national team,” he toy-tossed. “But the advantage I have is that I’m second to an extraterrestrial.”

Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is concerned about the flamin’ pitch for his side’s World Cup play-off second leg against Honduras on Wednesday, after the 2017 Monster Jam was held there on Saturday night. “There were monster trucks on there,” he howled.

And, after Harare City won Zimbabwe’s Chibuku Cup, the losing team’s manager accused the winners of using juju by smearing mud on the posts. “I had to change my career and wipe the goalposts before the game started,” sniffed How Mine’s Kelvin Kaindu. Harare City boss Philani ‘Beefy’ Ncube isn’t having any of it, mind: “What does a dirty goalpost have to do with scoring and defending? If he is a man of God, how does he get affected by juju?”

STILL WANT MORE?

A photograph of three boys at a 1990 youth tournament, the death of the man who took the picture, and the story of what happened next – an unlikely and wonderful tale from Anders Bengtsson.

If you’re going to read one thing, etc and so on.



If you’re going to read one thing, etc and so on. Photograph: Peter Widing

How has Tite given Brazil their swagger back? 1) He is not Dunga. 2) He was nowhere near that 7-1 shellacking; and 3) read this.

Ronaldo was Marcus Rashford’s inspiration before he became Big Ronaldo, writes Sachin Nakrani, offering hope to Manchester-based fast food outlets in about 15 years.

Accrington Stanley? Who are the [leave it – Fiver Ed]. They’re the League Two club who wouldn’t have been entirely against video technology this weekend against Cambridge United, that’s who, writes Jeremy Alexander.

Essam El-Hadary, the 84-year-old preparing for his World Cup debut. By Josh Sippie.

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