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17 June ~ Disappointment at conceding a late goal against Spain has given way to a more positive mood in the Czech Republic, with everything still to play for against Croatia today. Having taken an atypically defensive approach against Spain, coach Pavel Vrba has promised to return to his trademark attacking style for the remaining group games. Sparta Prague midfielder Borek Dockal, the Czechs’ leading scorer in qualification, is expected to return to the starting line-up.
16 June ~ Whatever conclusions can be drawn from the chaos so far at Euro 2016, one thing is for sure – fans in Russia have been picking over the events in great detail. At some point in the last week everyone has pointed the finger at everyone else. Fratria, the Spartak Moscow ultras group, were one of many claiming the English fans started the trouble by provoking the Russians – Fratria claim they only fought with those English fans that wanted to.
15 June ~ At half-time in last night’s Portugal v Iceland match I wandered down from my flat to the crescent of bars surrounding Gare Lille Flandres. When I got there it was obvious a number of Lille locals had chosen to participate in another spectator sport rather than tuning in to Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
15 June ~ Last Friday the Football League voted to include Premier League under-21 teams into the Football League Trophy. The competitions new, expanded format, which has been announced just a few weeks after the League suggested they needed to cut fixture congestion, will begin with a group stage and include 16 category one academy sides alongside the usual clubs from League One and Two. It will initially be trialled for one season, but the change hasn’t gone down well with fans, who were not consulted on the new format.
14 June ~ A week before the Euros kicked off, Turkey’s manager Fatih Terim tried to lower fans’ expectations. He declared that a draw against Croatia would be a great start to the tournament, and noted that should Croatia qualify for the knockout stages they would go very far in the tournament. By the looks of pre-game commentary on social and other forms of media, he was successful.
The new WSC is out now, available in all good newsagents or to order from the WSC shop.
- Hibs' first Cup win since 1902
- Edinburgh City break new ground
- Controversial League shake-up
- Who won the unofficial World Cup?
- Spain's withdrawal from Euro 60
- WSC writers' competition winners
13 June ~ Northern Ireland’s opening Group B match with Poland was a game that had been 30 years in the making. In the end what ensued was a defensively solid performance but one lacking in attacking vigour and a disappointing defeat. It would be churlish indeed to say anything other than “hard luck, lads” but there is undoubtedly a sense that a change in approach will now be required.
13 June ~ Slovakia coach Jan Kozak will take no comfort in the fact, but his team‘s 2-1 defeat to Wales in Bordeaux has enhanced his reputation as a man of wise words. As soon as the draw for the final stages was made last November, Kozak said he was happy enough to be in a group with England and Russia but that Wales were the fourth seeds he really hadn’t wanted.
10 June ~ They say France has ground to a standstill, but there was little sign of that as commuters poured out of Gare Lille Flandres into the June sunshine this morning. Strikes continue to take place across the country as part of the CGT union’s widespread protests against the controversial loi travail, which would change working conditions in the country – but you would never have guessed it from the number of people wandering down Rue du Molinel into offices in the usual manner or enjoying their morning cafés on the pavement terraces.
7 June ~ John Gaustad, the founder of the influential bookshop Sportspages, died over the weekend. The first Sportspages was opened on Caxton Walk, just off Charing Cross Road, in London in 1985 and became hugely important in the rise of sports literature, offering fans and journalists a dedicated place to go to find writing about football. The shop was also one of the early stockists of WSC, as well as many other fanzines at that time. Gaustad went on to co-found the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award in 1989 and opened a second branch of the shop in Manchester in 1992.