Wednesday 11 July
Croatia 2:1 England
Ah feck, what an anti-climax. Somebody forgot their lucky pants. The least deserving side ever to reach the World Cup final will be stuffed by France and we are left with the third-place play-off and the feeling that it should have been us.
In truth, we didn’t create enough and for all our heroic defending the absence of Jack Wilshire and Jonjo Shelvey in the midfield and Rashford in the attack really showed us up. Alli and Raheem Sterling were little better than passengers
Croatia’s equaliser shouldn’t have been allowed – it was dangerous play, raising your boot above waist height as the defender stoops to head the ball is endangering your opponent – but the feeling persists that they would have found an equaliser even if that one had been ruled out.
They are a painfully average side and we have missed a once-in-a-generation chance to be the side battered by France in the final.
Thursday 12 July
Kenedy’s loan to Newcastle for the coming season has been confirmed. The 22-year-old was a catalyst for the Magpies last term after joining them shortly after Christmas. The move hasn’t been a very secret as Kenedy bumped into a Sky Sports reporter on the train north earlier this week.
Friday 13 July
Antonio Conte was officially let go last night after the players had gone home from training. The timing of the announcement just adds to the feeling that the club have developed an unhelpful hatred towards Antonio.
We love the guy and can’t shake the feeling that he will resurface at a rival and lead them to a decade of dominance while we dither around with a-n-other manager who will fill the void.
The curt club statement didn’t really go far enough, it listed his achievements but didn’t touch on the impact Antonio had on the spirit around the club after Jose led us confidently into the wilderness so he could get the sack in time for the Manchester United job. Conte lifted not just the Chelsea squad he inherited but changed the whole ethos of the place and revolutionised the tactics of Premiership clubs and, if it isn’t too much of an overstatement, led to the three-at-the-back revolution that has led England so close in this summer’s World Cup.
Antonio Conte has been more important to this club than just a league crown and an FA Cup, he brought passion and intelligence to Chelsea and we seem to have just spat him out.
As it stands reports, although no official confirmation, suggest that Maurizio Sarri will bring his breathless brand of attacking football. Mauricio Pochettino and Pep Guardiola have already said very complimentary things about his Napoli and the beauty of the way they play.
The main drawback here appears to be the length of time he is being given to prepare his side for the new season. There are only 29 days until we play Huddersfield and he hasn’t even officially be appointed yet.
Bungling incompetence, surely, if Sarri was the target all summer and we have been dithering over compensation packages for Napoli and to Antonio Conte.
Jorginho is expected in London this evening as well from Napoli to drive his midfield philosophy. The Brazil-born, Italian national chose Stamford Bridge over Man City this summer so perhaps he has faith in his boss.
Sarri comes with Gianfranco Zola as an assistant. Franco’s own managerial experience briefly shone at West Ham but was stifled by his last appointment replacing a successful and popular boss at Birmingham City in Gary Rowett. It was a no-win situation for Franco and the club.
Nobody can deny that Franco Zola back and the prospect of fast attacking football, Napoli have outscored all other Italian sides in the last two terms, but the way this has been handled looks amateurish.
Saturday 14 July
Belgium 2:0 England
Belgium didn’t really have to go through the gears but England’s second XI looked a better side than the tired bunch that struggled to create chances on Wednesday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek proved a better footballer than Dele Alli or Lingard and leaves the feeling that if he a Rashford had started every match how far we could have got.
As it was an early strike from Thomas Meunier meant we were chasing the game and although there were cameos from Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, some great touches from Kevin de Bruyne it was a bit of a struggle to watch.
Jordan Pickford pulled off a couple of saves that will give him confidence the goalkeeping role is his. Stones and Maguire will mature well and showed plenty of determination to get forward. Harry Kane looked tired and listless in his half shrugged attempts to get on the end of the good cross that came in. Raheem Sterling summed up his tournament when he booted a shot straight at a defender when he could have played in one of three colleagues.
Eden added the second on the break and Belgium created the better chances just by being able to sit back and break through England’s laboured attempts to find a shot on target. Too often the ball found its way to Eric Dier with a chance to play the ball into the box… he failed every single time. Kevin de Bruyne, by contrast, showed how incisive a side can be if they pick midfielders who can thread balls through a backline with perfect weight and timing.
England hasn’t really pulled up any trees in this tournament. Yes, we made it to the third place play-off but mostly because our side of the draw was the easier. We created so few chances that only Iran managed to make fewer. Feel good it has been but there is a long way to go. Belgium looked far more of a finished product and a better bet for the next Euros but we are on the right path.
Right after the match, Eden Hazard said he had had enough at Chelsea after 5-years and would only say “you know my preferred destination” meaning we will be getting a cheque from Real Madrid.
At home and Chelsea confirm Sarri’s appointment and the arrival of Jorginho for an initial £50m.
Sarri’s is a three-year contract and he will have a few weeks to try to change the squad. His first order of business is a match in Australia the week after next.
Northwood 1:0 Chelsea U23
As the boys got back from ten-days in Spain they played their first pre-season and there was a lot of rust in the legs of a strong but very young Chelsea squad: Masampu, McEachran, McCormick, Gilmour, Brown, Maddox, Castillo all started The first-half was pretty slow with only a Charlie Brown shot to show for our efforts.
The second-half was better as we started to dominate but the usual friendly substitutions interrupted the flow and Northwood were good for their win in the inaugural Pete Barry Memorial Trophy.
Woking on Wednesday next.
The academy twitter feed also broke the news that Kyle Scott is going to spend the season with Telstar in the Dutch second division. Yes, a football club named after a communications satellite launched the year they were formed – it was a big thing in 1963. Southampton’s Ryan Seager has also been recruited so perhaps they have a plan.
Sunday 15 July
France 4:2 Croatia
A World Cup final that finally lived up to the billing, this was not your 1-0 in extra-time, this was a proper final.
France took the lead through the first own-goal in final history – Mario Mandzukic headed in Griezmann’s free-kick.
Smug irritant, Ivan Perisic netted a superb equaliser and at that stage, with Croatia closing down France and stifling their momentum, you thought it might be a contest but then came the penalty.
Perisic was involved again as his hand swung down in an arc and pushed the ball behind from a corner. The referee consulted VAR and the penalty was given.
Blimey the BBC can put a dampener on anything. It had been a scintillating first-half but their four panellists all agreed that the France penalty should not have been given. Despite reading out the law and interpretation that the referee has to consider the movement of the hand towards the ball, and the Croatian hand moved down and patted away the ball.
France stretched their advantage in the second. Making the brave call to substitute N’Golo Kante and free up France’s attacking quartet. Paul Pogba curled in his effort at the second attempt after Mbappe’s run and it was Mbappe who made it four for France with another strike where he first shimmied to wrong-foot the goalkeeper and then thrashed the ball in from outside the area.
Croatia pulled a goal back when Hugo Lloris tried to play football and only managed to play the ball against Mandzukic’s boot.
For all the pain of losing in the semi-final, you have to give a nod the quality that France put into this tournament. They are deserved winners.