Heroes and Zeros

Don’t you just love international breaks? It’s that brief interlude between the ultra-competitive Premier League weekends where everything seems to slow down. It feels like going from a trading floor of a brokerage house to a government office reeking of bureaucracy. But we must soldier on. And point. And laugh.

Heroes

Argentina’s Brave New World: With the shadow of Lionel Messi no longer looming large over them, Argentina showed flashes of what they could become with the right coaching. The names of the four goalscorers may not stand out immediately, but that, in itself, is a compliment. Too bad this emphatic 4-0 win was against Iraq, whose players surely have bigger things to worry about back home, than winning a game of football against an under-performing giant; the Americans’ oil supply won’t last forever, you know.

Spain: Luis Enrique is getting his Spain squad to sing from the same hymn sheet, which is far more than what they did at the World Cup. In this kind of form, even a prime Giggs with a chest full of hair would have found it difficult to keep up with the Spaniards. Well, except one Welshman, who did make his presence known.

Ethan Ampadu: The 17-year old didn’t back down from his duel with shithouse extraordinaire, Sergio Ramos, despite the Spaniard having way more experience in shithousery at this level. Or any level, for that matter.

Paco Alcacer: The Barcelona misfit is firing on all cylinders this season, having moved to Dortmund after a dozen or so clubs refused to accept him as a makeweight in any deal.

Iceland: A 2-2 draw with the World Champions despite giving away an own-goal should ensure that the Viking clap lives on for another tournament.

Kylian Mbappe: Stop making my childhood and teenage years look like a waste of time, Kylian!

Gabriel Jesus: Stop making my early twenties look like a waste of time, Gabriel!

Portugal: Three and easy. That is also how one unnamed Portuguese footballer treats his women. Allegedly.

Jose Mourinho: Not getting sacked in the morning for another week.

Zeros

Ryan Giggs’ Wales: It’s not going as well as he’d hoped, is it? Meanwhile, Mad Mark Hughes is just piling straws on the camel at Southampton, waiting for its back to give way. When that happens, Giggsy better hope Wales’ form has picked up, lest they start thinking about bringing their other prodigal son back home.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek: His spot in the England squad was snatched by his own club teammate from under his nose. There are worse ways to miss out on a squad place, but this one is in the top three.

England: Is it too early to say Be careful what you wish for?

Croatia: Snap out of the post-World Cup hangover already, fellas.

People who watched Croatia vs England: Don’t be so harsh on yourselves, guys. There was no way you could have known about the bore-fest that was to follow.

Scotland: Steven Naismith’s goal only served as a fig leaf to cover their shame, nothing more. And by the time it arrived, we’d already had a good view.