Russell Stoddart’s Euro 2020 diary looks at a possible new advertising deal for England manager Gareth Southgate, a cultured Italian star, French infighting, Spanish social media abuse, commentating commendations and travel issues.
England boss Gareth Southgate is being touted for a new Pizza Hut advert — 25 years after his first.
As you may remember, it was Southgate’s miss in the penalty shoot-out against Germany that sent England crashing to defeat in the Euro ’96 Semi-Finals.
Later that year, he teamed up with Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle, who missed spot-kicks against Germany at Italia ’90, to poke fun at their misfortune.
In the ad for the restaurant chain, Southgate turns up wearing a paper bag to protect his anonymity only to be convinced by Waddle to discard it.
“Thanks a lot boys,” says Southgate. “I feel better now,” before walking into a wall, prompting Pearce to joke “now he’s hit the post!”
Now that Southgate earned his redemption in the 2-0 win on Tuesday, plenty on social media are urging him to cash in again — but this time minus the paper bag.
Italian players are clearly a bit more cultured than their British counterparts.
Take midfielder Matteo Pessina, for example, who is halfway through a five-year degree in accountancy, can also speak fluent Latin and has a love for ballet.
Described as Italy’s ‘secret weapon’, he was off the international radar until an injury to Stefano Sensi gave him a late call-up to Italy’s Euro 2020 squad and he’s thrived — scoring the winner in two of their games.
The 24-year-old Atalanta star was asked to describe his Azzurri team-mates and chose to compare them to artist Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Almond Blossom’.
The Almond tree is a flower that blooms early in spring and is a symbol of new life.
There is plenty of promise that this new crop of Italian stars are coming into full bloom.
Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright has brought a new word into the mainstream English vocabulary.
The 57-year-old, who is a pundit on ITV’s coverage of the Euros, praised Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku ahead of the last-16 win against Portugal for using his ‘bunda’ to great effect.
Apparently, it’s a slang word for butt or bottom and Wright was impressed with the way the Inter Milan striker used it to shield the ball from defenders.
Whether it becomes as popular as some other slang terms in football — such as the nutmeg, Panenka, the Poznan, Rabona and even howler — remains to be seen.
In England, it’s often the WAGs that have bust-ups but French squads at major tournaments have a tradition of falling out among themselves.
However, it seems Veronique Rabiot — mother of Adrien — is more than happy to occasionally lend a helping hand.
This unlikely villain, or villainess, of the Euros was sitting with the families of other French players during the shock penalty shoot-out defeat to Switzerland.
She let rip on Paul Pogba’s family in front of her, criticising the Manchester United midfielder for a mistake that led to the world champions conceding a goal.
Not content with that, she turned her anger on Kylian Mbappe’s father after his son missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. She shouted: “I hope you have a talk with your son, it is embarrassing how he struck that, for a player of his level. He hit it too lightly. I hope you are going to scold him.”
Rabiot has some history of getting under others’ skin and was escorted from the Paris Saint-Germain car park in 2014 when she confronted Laurent Blanc, whom she blamed for her Adrien being dropped to the reserves.
While England hit the road for the one and only time in these Euros to face Ukraine in Rome last night, spare a thought for travel-weary Switzerland.
They have racked up the air miles more than any other nation during this summer’s tournament.
They faced Wales in the Azerbaijan capital Baku in their group opener, then travelled to tackle hosts Italy in Rome before a return to Baku to take on Turkey.
There were to be no home comforts in the knockout stages with the reward for beating France in Bucharest in the last-16 being a trip to St Petersburg for Friday’s quarter-final clash against Spain.
A quick calculation shows they’ve done 8,330 miles in a little over two weeks. That doesn’t include coach trips to and from training bases and hotels.
Don’t be surprised if Swiss players travelling home for a delayed summer break opt to ditch the passport and have a staycation instead.
Chelsea women’s coach Emma Hayes has topped a survey of the UK’s favourite pundits at this summer’s Euros.
The 44-year-old, who has been in charge of the Blues since 2012 and took them to their first Champions League Final in May, was rated best out of 28 from research for OLBG Commentator rankings.
Hayes is part of the ITV team and lit up an otherwise dull Group C clash between Austria and North Macedonia with her forthright opinions and tactical analysis.
She was described as “elite” by fellow pundit Ian Wright for her explanation of why Poland’s talisman Robert Lewandowski was frozen out in the first major shock of the Finals in their defeat to Slovakia.
Since then, she has also been on duty for the eight-goal thriller between Spain and Croatia.
BBC Radio 5’s summariser and former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin was runner-up in the survey.
Alvaro Morata was not able to escape social media abuse even in the tightest of Italian Euro 2020 bubbles.
The on-loan Juventus striker therefore had more reason than most to celebrate his world-class goal in Spain’s thrilling 5-3 extra-time win against Croatia in Monday’s last-16 tie.
The ex-Chelsea star had been ridiculed after missing chances in each of the group stage games, including a penalty in the 5-0 win against Slovakia.
The 28-year-old found himself the subject of online abuse while his wife and children were shouted at on the streets of Seville.
It got so bad he even had to leave his mobile phone outside his hotel room door.
“I would like people to put themselves in my shoes and think what it’s like to get threats towards my family, people saying, ‘I hope your children die’,” Morata told Spanish radio.
Spain boss Luis Enrique was so enraged with the incidents, he described them as a “serious crime”.