Ah well. Roll on Russia and the World Cup finals of 2018. You cannot take it away from them.
Yes, of course they bought the World Cup tournament, but so did the South Africans and the Germans, not to mention most scandalously of all the Qataris. But that’s football my friends, international football at least, and is anything going to change under the new uninspiring leadership of Infantino?
The bleak truth is that the English thugs in Marseilles were simply out-hooliganed by the Russians, who are known to go into collective battle hardening training. Nothing could have been more predictable than what horribly happened in Marseilles, and the UEFA authorities should clearly have seen it coming and tried to avoid it, however artificially, by ensuring that Russia and England didn’t meet.
Now UEFA is sanctioning the Russian Federation but what good will that do when it comes to the ensuing World Cup? It could be a hooligan jamboree with deaths all too probable.
And England? By which I mean the team. To say that they “deserved” to beat the Russians is, if I may use an expression which is constantly misused in our press, begging the question. They were up against a mediocre Russian team deprived of its two best attacking players and potentially vulnerable through its defensive middle, one of whose veterans actually popped up so late to score the equalising goal.
Predictably, even inevitably, England dominated much of the game but scant sympathy is deserved when we know that the only goal they contrived came not from open play but from a free kick.
Did Roy Hodgson pick the right team? I am in total agreement with those such as Peter Crouch who declared that England should have deployed Jamie Vardy, and plainly in a central attacking position. Yes, Harry Kane had a largely ineffectual match, but surely the electric pace of Vardy could have been a trump card against those Russian centre backs; one of whom would even score that late equaliser.
England made numerous chances but apart from that dazzling free kick, converted none of them. A meagre response indeed for so much territorial domination.
I still cannot understand why Raheem Sterling, whose final ball was often so disappointing, should have claimed a place on the wing, while Andros Townsend wasn’t even in the 23. The experiment of using Wayne Rooney deep in midfield certainly worked, and there were other bright performances, but so there should have been against an ageing, mediocre side.
And now Wales, who surpassed themselves in traditional fashion with their resilient win against Slovakia. The remarkable Gareth Bale was as dynamic and elusive as you would have hoped him to be against Slovakia, though his free kick goal, however spectacular, was helped by a serious goalkeeping error, when the keeper put himself initially on the wrong foot. Can England harness Bale? Would it be sensible to use John Stones with his own pace at centre back?
On paper England can certainly deploy the stronger team but that never really means much when it comes to Wales. Aaron Ramsey – what has he done to his hair? – will present a strong challenge to the English midfield and we can assume that once again in Welsh football history the whole will be better than the parts.
The vexed case of Dr Eva Carneiro, which has at last resulted in a massive payoff from a previously recalcitrant Chelsea, has elicited some strange reactions not least from the usually reliable Daily Mail columnist Stephen Glover, who devoted a whole misbegotten page to excoriating Dr Carneiro.
Above all, he should have got his facts right. The fundamental issue was not what Jose Mourinho called her when she ran onto the field at Stamford Bridge to treat the injured Eden Hazard but that he impugned her for unprofessional behaviour when in fact she had no alternative to doing what she did.
We know that little time was left for Chelsea to score a vital goal but that was neither here nor there. The referee had called Dr Carneiro onto the field and she had no alternative but to respond. In parenthesis, the FA, in its familiar cack-handed way, had made a dog’s dinner into enquiring whether Mourinho had called her the daughter of a whore, which it now seems he accepted that he did, engaging a linguist who duly and mistakenly reassured them that the Portuguese word which Mourinho used was filho rather than filha meaning son rather than daughter which in context made no sense at all.
The essence of this horrid affair is that Dr Carneiro was accused by Mourinho quite indefensibly and irrationally of acting impulsively and hastily when she clearly had no alternative but to do as she did.
That Chelsea should not only have indemnified Mourinho but right up to the tribunal itself should have insisted her allegations were to be denied make their subsequent grumbling climb down the more embarrassing. £5 million may have been a lot of money but Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich can take such sums out of his back pocket.