Get ready for football’s biggest weekend this side of the World Cup

That’s it. This is our reward for 16 months of turning the world upside down.

Sixteen months in which the most reliable metronome that dictated our weekly routine went completely off for three months before it returned in weird ways: no fans, masked carriages on the benches, and echoes in once noisy revival tents made of brick and steel. Sixteen months in which we realized that the game really is the most important of the unimportant things in our lives.

Of course we can do without that. We have proven that. But we are much richer with it.

And now we’re getting two brand finals on the A list as a reward.

– Olley: England Cast out demons in victory over Denmark
Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN + (US only)
Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Brazil vs. Argentina on Saturday in the Copa America and Italy vs. England in the euro. Together, that’s 12 world championships and 24 continental championships. It is Neymar against Lionel Messi. Italy doesn’t play like Italy against England doesn’t play like England.

It’s an A-list weekend, a farewell before the summer break, in the hope that when elite football returns in August, it will look even more like we once knew it to be normal.

Make no mistake: this doesn’t mean the nightmare is over. We have already lost 4 million of our loved ones. Four million sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandmas, grandpas, friends, colleagues and strangers. Just yesterday there were 32,356 new infections in the UK, which is hosting the Euro 2020 semi-finals and will host the final, despite one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. For context, that would be like that United States, which has about five times the population and recorded 160,000 cases where the country was in January.

We don’t know what to expect. We trust in the power of science, the intellect of researchers, and the wisdom of our elected leaders. We hope the best.

Either Lionel Messi or Neymar will win their first major international trophy when they play the Copa America final. Photo by Alexandre Schneider / Getty Images

The pandemic may have dominated, but let’s not forget the other existential threat to the game as we know it: the Super League. Less than 12 weeks ago, 12 clubs announced that they would be turning the established order upside down and reshaping the structure of the game based on their short-sighted goals and priorities. The rebellion lasted 48 hours and was stopped by a united front that included mostly fans, but also the media, UEFA, FIFA, players, coaches, governments and hundreds of clubs. We call them stakeholders. But they had little part in the top-secret project that had been hatched that would change the game forever.

This threat is not over yet either. Three of the 12 “founder clubs” – Juventus, real Madrid and Barcelona – stick to their plan, the website is still online, still bears the crests and names of clubs, even those who say they have withdrawn. The next battles in the war for control of the sport are yet to come, and they will be fought in courtrooms rather than on fields.

In the meantime, we can review this weekend and smile. We’re getting two big finals, each full of history and backstory.

England could win their first major trophy since 1966 on Sunday while Italy are looking for their first European championship since 1968. Justin Tallis / Pool Photo via AP)

Either Messi or Neymar – once teammates at Barcelona, ​​now rivals, always united in genius – will win his first major international cup. You’ll do it at the Maracana, where Pele once starred and where the greatest crowd ever gathered to watch a soccer game: 199,854, according to FIFA, watched Uruguay Brazilian hearts break in the 1950 World Cup final. This weekend there will be a small number in the stands, with 6,500 admitted participants.

At Wembley, where England won their only major international trophy 55 years ago, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions will try to make history and show that football has come home after their anthem. It’s a different England built on defensive solidity and tactical discipline, but also on respect, humility and inclusion.

Italy, on the other hand, will try to make up for the humiliation of missing the 2018 World Cup. This Azzurri page is different too. Gone is the deep defense, counterattack and patience for the moment of inspiration from a Roberto Baggio or a Paolo Rossi at the other end.

Instead, coach Roberto Mancini has put together a team that will play the way Italy allegedly never would – some would say they could never – play: one based on dominating midfield, claiming the ball and taking risks on both sides of the pitch. You have played 33 games without a loss. If Sunday goes according to plan, they will not only be European champions, but only one game away from equalization Spain‘s all-time record.

It’s the biggest weekend in international football this side of the World Cup. Let’s enjoy it. We deserve it.

Source link


Read Previous

Aakriti Khanal on the Value of a Global and Diverse Work Environment

Read Next

Biden administration cancels $1.5 billion of student loan debt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *