Two of Euro 2022’s big beasts go head-to-head in Brighton on Monday evening, with Sarina Wiegman’s England taking on a hugely talented Norway side. It’s been billed as the most important game in Group A and it’s true the stakes could not be higher: the glorious winners will almost certainly top the group and go on to face the runners-up from Group B, either the ludicrously dominant Germany or the ridiculously impressive Spain. The dismal losers, meanwhile, will almost certainly finish second in the group and go on to face the winners of Group B, either the ludicrously dominant Spain or the ridiculously impressive Germany.
Nevertheless there does seem to be a little bit of needle between the sides. Pre-game, Norway coach Martin Sjögren donned his Derren Brown waistcoat, stuck on his Paul McKenna DVD and launched into a furious bout of Mind Games. Norway are “definitely” the underdogs, he tooted, as members of the assembled press began to wonder if they really did want to rob a bank. England “feel quite a lot of pressure from being at home, being one of the favourites”, he blurted, as several photographers suddenly realised they knew all their families’ pins and passwords. There were “a lot of nerves” in England’s performance against Austria in the opening game, he claimed, as reporters stampeded for the door, desperate to get to the nearest casino to place their life savings on red 46.
England coach Wiegman, though, was having none of it. “You’re talking about someone who is saying something about us, who hasn’t been with the team and the process, but that’s OK – and it’s nice that they’re trying to put pressure on us,” she growled. “We’re just working on our game and how we want to play.” Their game will certainly have to improve from their opening 1-0 win over Austria. Norway’s threat is undoubted, with Chelsea’s Guro Reiten, Barcelona’s Caroline Graham Hansen and 2018 Ballon d’Or Féminin winner Ada Hederberg all capable of taking advantage if the hosts have any jitters, real, imagined or subliminally implanted.
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Join Luke McLaughlin from 5pm BST for MBM coverage of Austria 3-0 Northern Ireland at Euro 2022, before Rob Smyth is on deck for England 1-1 Norway.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We all have good days and bad days” – Valour FC captain Daryl Fordyce offers teammate W1lly Akio his support after the striker prevented his own team scoring a goal with, what we at least think was, a premature goalline celebration for the ages. “We’ll all grow with it,” sniffed manager Phillip Dos Santos after the 1-0 win.
“Gags in Latin and a micturating Barry Fry in the same missive (Friday’s Fiver). I don’t know whether The Fiver has reached its zenith or nadir?” – Andrew Taylor.
“Following up on Steve Allen’s missive (Friday’s Fiver letters), has anyone’s Latin teacher ever thought they might amount to something? Mine’s fulsome praise was “maintains a high position without appearing to exert himself”, a mantra I have tried to follow ever since” – Clive Stone.
NEWS, BITS AND BOBS
Paul Pogba has rejoined Juventus on a four-year deal. “He left as a boy and returns as a man,” tooted a Juve statement, handily reminding us how time works.
Northern Ireland have pledged to fight for their injured striker Simone Magill against Austria. “The girls have been heartbroken,” said captain Marissa Callaghan. “There were a lot of tears for her but it’s a massive incentive for us to go out and get a result.”
Switzerland are recovering after cancelling Monday’s training session before their next Euros match against Sweden, with eight players and 11 staff members showing “gastrointestinal symptoms”.
Iran may be on their way to the Human Rights World Cup but head coach Dragan Skocic is set to be binned off.
Erik ten Hag has dared Cristiano Ronaldo to tell him that he wants to leave Manchester United because, presumably, the noise from CR7’s people wasn’t loud enough. “I have read [about his wish] but what I say is Cristiano is not for sale,” roared Ten Hag. “I didn’t speak to him … his absence is a personal issue.”
Crystal Palace have signed midfielder Cheick Doucouré from Lens on a five-year deal.
And Nottingham Forest boss Steve Cooper seems to be riffing on the size of Neco Williams’ apartment after welcoming the £17m full-back to the club from Liverpool. “We believe that he’s got an incredibly high ceiling,” honked Cooper.