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Yes, I did. At the end of the game, a 7 year old South African kid tried to invade the pitch to take a picture with the Brazilian players (Neymar specifically) but the security guards saw it and grabb

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Germany having a nightmare but an ageing griup of top players who were world class/borderline world class that had won a lot (Neuer, Kroos, Boateng, Muller, Ozil) and as mentioned in Kepa thread regarding Spain, maintaining and having the next generation of top top players being the same as the previous ones is very difficult. Would imagine like Italy they will end up going to a tournament like Euros or WC and being good. They still have plenty about them but defensively their selections aren’t amazing and maybe Low been there for too long. 

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29 minutes ago, Vesper said:

Ferran Torres is looking every bit the monster I assumed he would become

hat trick and almost had a 4th

Top talent with huge potential. Once Pep gives him a run regularly he will take off. 

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32 minutes ago, Vesper said:

yes, he and Foden will be terrors for years

Really hope Pep leaves and gets replaced by a completely inadequate manger who ruins their development lol. Dont see it happening. The sheiks sadly know what they are doing. their club is run superbly.

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Is this all part of Germany's elaborate rope-a-dope masterplan?


A proper shoeing, earlier.
camera.png A proper shoeing, earlier. Photograph: Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Scott Murray


It’s about time The Fiver started seriously planning for the future. Time to grow up, identify prudent investment opportunities, build a portfolio, make our money work for us. So this morning we put our entire life’s savings on Germany winning either the Euros next year or the World Cup the one after. It’s a shoo-in, quite frankly, if Tuesday night’s fiasco in Seville is anything to go by. Joachim Löw’s rabble had the back seat of their trousers handed to them by Spain, a team who hadn’t won in three and didn’t fancy their chances of getting the victory that would send them to the semi-finals of the Confected Importance League. Germany’s 6-0 defeat is being framed in some quarters as a humiliation, but The Fiver knows it’s as good as a written guarantee of silverware. Pints of Germany’s answer to Purple Tin, das Föamingshaafft, all round!

Thing is, many of Germany’s biggest successes have come hot on the heels of their most egregious and embarrassing failures. The 1954 World Cup, for example, won a couple of weeks after losing 8-3 to Hungary. The 1974 World Cup, hoisted in the wake of a politically embarrassing defeat by the East Germans, a result that sent coach Helmut Schön so deep into the slough of despond that he locked himself into his room and only ate when staff mashed up his food for him. Germany reached the 2002 final despite the humiliation of shipping five goals at home to Géd Houllier’s Liverpool. And then there was 2013, when they heaped shame on the nation by only managing a 1-0 win against a team managed by Mr Roy. You know exactly what happened the year after. It’s a long-established pattern. It’s how they roll.

Mind you, Germany are really going for it big this time. Tuesday’s farce was merely the cherry on the cake of a distinctly underwhelming sequence in which they’ve won only three of the last eight, scoring 14 but letting in 17. If this is all part of an elaborate rope-a-dope masterplan, they’re really pushing their luck this time, because habits die hard after a while. Happily, everyone in the German camp seems calm and in control, even though Löw’s stricken demeanour in the post-match presser may have convinced the team chef to cut up his steak into little cubes that go choo-choo in the tunnel. “We still trust Joachim Löw, no doubt about that,” insisted DFB director Oliver Bierhoff afterwards. So the manager’s job is safe … as is The Fiver’s £3.72 investment with the turf accountant, we’ll be bound.


Join Scott Murray from 7.45pm GMT for hot MBM coverage of England 2-1 Iceland, while Nick Ames will be on hand for international clockwatch coverage too.


“I’m quite down to earth so when I met them for the first time I wasn’t too starstruck. But when I did find out it was people with such significant global reach, it did seem quite surreal. It’s been a wild few months” – Wrexham director Spencer Harris tells Ed Aarons about the red-hot chats that tempted Deadpool and Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to enter the world of National League club ownership.

The Gang Ready Themselves for Aldershot at Home.
camera.png The Gang Ready Themselves for Aldershot at Home. Composite: Lewis Storey/Getty Images; Woohae Cho/Getty Images for Netflix; Philip Cheung/The Guardian


The game and mental health: a Football Weekly special.

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Koke is not the new Xavi – but he’s back to his best and dominating midfield



“Koke was super happy, as is logical, as he really wanted to get back and play for Spain,” a source close to the Spain midfielder told The Athletic after their 6-0 Nations League win over Germany on Tuesday evening in Seville.

“Even though he was not called up for two years, he never lost that excitement of playing for La Seleccion or the ambition to return. He is a super balanced guy — not someone who gets carried away when things go really well or get down when things get difficult. He knows clearly what he has to do and he does it, as he did last night.”

It really was a triumphant return to prominence with La Roja for Koke, who was even wearing the captain’s armband as the last three goals went in after usual skipper Sergio Ramos limped off with a hamstring injury.

Koke had been the leader of the Spanish performance over the entire game as he completely outshone Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos in the German engine room and pushed his team into waves of attacks, completely overwhelming Joachim Low’s team. Spain had 70 per cent possession, 23 shots to Germany’s two, and Koke pulled the strings with 95 per cent pass accuracy, including seven accurate long balls and four key passes.

It was also no wonder that Koke was delighted after the game given that just a few months ago, things were looking very different for the Atletico Madrid midfielder, with his career seeming to have stalled for both club and country.

He won his 44th international cap for Spain soon after playing his part in their disastrous 2018 World Cup in Russia, but was then discarded completely by both national coaches Luis Enrique and Robert Moreno through qualifying for Euro 2020 and the first two rounds of Nations League games this year.

Koke’s disappearance was noted but not really a source of much debate outside of Atletico-leaning pundits.

He had burst onto the scene as a key part of Diego Simeone’s 2013-14 La Liga title-winning side, having won the previous year’s Under-21 European Championship alongside near-contemporaries David de Gea, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Morata and Iker Muniain. This generation of emerging Spanish players were supposed to continue on the success of La Roja’s amazing successes from 2008 to 2012 when Xavi, Iker Casillas, David Villa et al were unstoppable. But instead, Koke’s first years with the international team saw national disappointment and embarrassment at the 2014 World Cup, Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

“We all had those memories of the players who won everything with Spain, who made everyone so happy,” says the source. “But Koke never compared himself to Xavi. That would be crazy. It was like looking for a new Iker (Casillas), which is what is still happening now with the ongoing debate over the goalkeeper. Or looking for a new Villa. There will be no more Xavis, or Casillas’ or Villas — and those comparisons among fans and in the media were unfair and did not help.”

Atletico have also been through their own seasons of transition over that time, with key players and team leaders like Gabi, Diego Godin and Antoine Griezmann moving on, and Koke being earmarked as the new leader at club level, too. At age 28, he has played 467 games for his only club in all competitions, placing him fourth on their all-time appearances list already. But when the team has struggled, as it has at various times in recent years, the homegrown kid has been the focus of criticism from frustrated Rojiblancos supporters.

After he was whistled at the Wanda Metropolitano in October 2019, Simeone explained that Koke was spending too much time trying to fix all his team’s problems, taking on former team-mate Gabi’s role screening the defence as well as shouldering his playmaking responsibility. It was too much — and also explained why Spain coaches looked at players such as Sergio Canales and other, younger options including Dani Ceballos, Mikel Merino and Fabian Ruiz.

“Koke’s generosity on the pitch, sometimes, takes away from the brilliance of his play,” the source who knows him says. “Koke is a guy who understands football like few do. He sees perfectly what is happening on the pitch. That brings him to try and fix all the imbalances he detects, and that often sees him looking backwards, running 13 kilometres a game, and spending a lot of time in tactical adjustments. When he is surrounded by the right team-mates, with the right balance, then he is freed to play his best position and produce his best attacking football. And when Koke can go forward, things happen like (Tuesday) night.”

Koke, Spain, Germany, Nations League, Atletico Madrid

The opening months of the 2020-21 season have seen Koke playing a central playmaking role for Atletico, noticeably breaking into the penalty area more often and linking productively with the team’s new attacking stars Joao Felix and Luis Suarez. He has been at the heart of their play as Atletico have won five and drawn two of their first seven La Liga games, while scoring 17 times and conceding twice, and they go into their game against Barcelona (on Saturday) in good form. He is touching the ball 88 times per game, while giving 65 successful passes. Last season, that was 71 touches per 90 minutes, and 47 passes completed. It is a small sample size yet it looks like he is flourishing within a better-balanced and more attack-minded Atletico team.

“Having arrived so young, and won things so early, people might think he is coming towards the end,” Koke’s source says. “But he is coming into the peak of his career now. Physically, at the moment, he is like a bull, a missile. He has had good fortune with injuries and he knows that, as the years pass, he has to mind himself a bit more off the pitch. He also has experience at his age that few players have. There is a lot of hard work, a lot of talent, and also that touch of good fortune and timing.”

The timing was also ideal on international level, with no other playmaker nailing down a place in the Spain XI while he was away. Enrique recognised Koke’s return to form and brought him back into the fold for these November international games. A 45th senior cap came in the friendly against Holland last week when he captained an experimental XI from the start. He came off the bench in Saturday’s Nations League game in Switzerland, helping his team come back and equalise late on in a 1-1 draw. Then came the fantastically dominant individual and collective performance against Germany.

There were other redemption stories for Spain on Tuesday, too. Morata continued his superb start to the season, following his escape from Simeone’s Atletico to Juventus. Manchester City’s Ferran Torres is also revelling following his liberation from Peter Lim’s Valencia last summer and hit a clinical hat-trick as the German defence was cut apart again and again. Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon keeping his place in goal ahead of Manchester United’s De Gea looked significant, as did another City player, Rodrigo, starting as the “holder” ahead of the injured Sergio Busquets.

Directing the traffic though, with the balance back again, was Koke. He’s not the new Xavi and Spain still have plenty of issues, which a better opponent than this Germany might exploit at next summer’s Euros. But he is playing his best football in a long time and that augurs very well for both club and country over the coming months.


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