Sunday 20 June 2021

Euro 2020 Day 9 - Line of International Duty

So Lucas Digne is French, is he?

That's Everton left back and not Spaniard, Lucas Digne. Before his appearance in the white shirt of France yesterday, playing on the Budapest pitch against Hungary in the second round of group games, I had, in my subconscious, assumed that Digne was, like Mikel Arteta when he played, one of those good Premier League players who could get nowhere near the Spain international team. But no, I've been labouring under another long-term Jorginhio-esque/Soyuncu misapprehension. The partly shaven-headed, tattoo-armed, good for a free-kick-and-cross Goodison successor to Leighton Baines is in the French squad that is hotly tipped to win this tournament.

It must have been Digne's Barcelona connections that fooled me. Or am I now getting him mixed up with Gerard Delofeu, who also played for Everton and Barcelona? Delofeu's not in the Spanish first team, but is that because he's not good enough for them or because he's not good enough for France? I mean he's got a French forename hasn't he, like Houllier and Depardieu? But then of course, there's Gerard Pique, who definitely played for Spain and Barcelona. So confusing. Now I come to think of it, there are players in Arsenal's first team whose country of birth or representation I am unsure of. Thomas Partey? At least when I watch him in an international I won't be taken by surprise.

Anyway, England-Scotland, I watched it. I'd had a word with myself and have now stopped getting all grumpy about flags and excitement. Stopped telling people about my feelings. I explained myself on a family WhatsApp group last week and felt unburdened. I found myself looking forward to the match, like "everyone else", and yet after all the hype and the bantz and the record viewing figure for the year, it turned out to be Ian Buckells. A booed conclusion. Not from me, though, I enjoyed the tension, like I enjoyed Ally McCoist's co-commentary (less so, Lee Dixon's - love you, Lee), and even Sam Matterface wasn't that bad. Even better, the now traditional Lee Chapman at West Ham tribute act performed by Harry Kane on the international tournament stage meant there were no Spurs players on the pitch for the last 15 minutes. No Arsenal ones in the  England team either, though one in the Scots ranks.

England now face the Czech Republic on Tuesday, both on four points and heading for the knockout round - but through which door? Reminds me of the England-Belgium scenario in 2018, a top-the-group showdown with a twist; one of you will walk through a lovely flower garden with afternoon tea provided (Colombia, Sweden, Croatia) and the other will be confronted by barbed wire, attack dogs and snipers (Japan, Brazil, France).

Three days before Wembley there was Munich and, during Germany v France (I didn't realise how many teams would be getting home advantage at this tournament), I thought that Clive Tyldesley's demotion seemed to suit him. He produced an insightful, inclusive, self-indulgent-free performance alongside the ever-affable McCoist (prepared to have his playing career ripped the piss out of by people who could only have dreamed of getting anywhere near the level he reached). Maybe the pressure is off, and he is less focussed on the game going out in pubs. I did question his assertion at the end of the 1-0 win for France (a strong, flawlessly-managed effort by them which left me cold) that "there has been nothing to be terrified by". As McCoist said in response, "France have got a lot more in the tank".

What I hadn't expected them to fire out was Lucas Digne.                      

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