BEFORE we get too giddy about going unbeaten against Holland and Italy, let us remember neither former giants of the international game qualified for this summer’s World Cup.

And while there were encouraging signs like inventive, forward-thinking and dare we say it, exciting football, we must not forget we do this EVERY time a major tournament looms.


We write ourselves off, lambast our players; then grind out some decent results and the hope returns until it’s bubbling under like a volcano ready to erupt when our inevitable early exit occurs.

Some things never change – both on and off the pitch sadly for the game that often does not deserve the tag ‘Beautiful’.

The strengthening of nationalism across Europe has led to an increase in hostility and has emboldened morons like football hooligans. Their inadequacy and impotence is what makes them so aggressive.

England has a problem with these disrespectful plebs – weak men with tiny brains and even smaller cojones – but we are not the only ones. Just wait to see what Russia has in store. Tit for tat ‘your thugs are worse than ours’ will not solve the problem.

Zero tolerance is the only way and if that means lengthy travel bans and hefty fines to quash the reawakening of this shameful ‘disease’ then bring it on. Appalling scenes like the ones in Amsterdam this week make me ashamed to be English and embarrassed to be a football fan and I’m sick of it.

Anyway I hate giving these imbeciles oxygen so let’s move swiftly on to where the action should be . . . on the pitch.

Jesse Lingard’s quickly taken free-take was smashed in by Jamie Vardy at Wembley on Tuesday but VAR raised its increasingly ugly head and Italy levelled late on with a dubious penalty.

Italy had lost 2-0 to a Messi-less Argentina in their previous friendly and have failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time in 60 YEARS!

At first glance a two-goal loss to the South Americans doesn’t look too bad until you see Spain smash them 6-1 and realise what a real World Cup contender does to a side in the doldrums.

In the first friendly of this international break England beat the worst Holland team in living memory 1-0. But then the Dutch duffed up Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal 3-0 so will the real Oranje please stand up!

The whole game was lacking quality with both teams often losing possession and there was an inexcusable refereeing decision not to give Marcus Rashford a penalty.

But Spanish official Jesús Gil Manzano did not quite take the dubious honour of being the worst performer on the pitch – that was Danny Rose. Let’s just say if the Tottenham defender’s lifeguard skills were as good as his football there would be a lot of drowned people.

At first glance picking Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker in the same team was the weirdest move in England circles since one Gareth Southgate was told to play in midfield against Germany by Kevin Keegan 18 years ago!

But strangely it worked and so did going three at the back. Being able to play different formations can only help the team in Russia and I think Jamal Lascelles should be one of the trio. How the Newcastle skipper has not been given a chance is beyond me.

In Amsterdam Lingard grabbed the winner. His first international goal was an average shot which keeper Jeroen Zoet got a hand to and should have kept out. His celebration was achingly juvenile, yet so him.

With his stupid handshakes and hand signs, dippy dances and dabs, Lingard is the high school virgin being allowed to hang out with the cool kids.

Southgate had called up four newbies to his squad – keeper Nick Pope, centre-backs James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson, plus midfielder Lewis Cook.

Some familiar faces were axed including 58-cap Gary Cahill, Manchester United star Chris Smalling and Theo Walcott is still out in cold despite his fresh start at Everton.

The likes of Harry Kane, Nathaniel Clyne, Phil Jones, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were either injured or not deemed match fit.

Jack Wilshere was named for the first time since November 2016 but predictably then picked up an injury – this time his knee.

The most mind-boggling decision was to pick Jake Livermore over Danny Drinkwater or Ross Barkley. The West Brom midfielder was one of the bunch of Herberts on the sherbet in the Taxi-gate scandal in Barcelona and his club are about to be relegated.

Up front – with Kane out – this is the list of English scorers in this season’s Premier League. Glenn Murray (11), Callum Wilson (7), Charlie Austin (6), Troy Deeney (5), Dwight Gayle (5 ), Tammy Abraham (4), Dominic Calvert-Lewin (4), Andre Gray (4), Jay Rodriguez (4), Danny Welbeck (3). Guess which one got the England call-up? Yep Welbeck – or Welbad as he’s affectionately called in our house.

England have two warm-up games against Nigeria and Costa Rica before they take to the field in earnest for their World Cup opener against Tunisia on June 18.

The Three Lions boss has already been tempering expectations before the tournament starts on June 14. He said recently that England knew what kind of team they were, a team ranked 16th in the world. Remember Gareth, a person who aims at nothing, is sure to hit it.

MEANWHILE in Wales records were being broken left, right and centre with new heights being reached – but sadly no silverware.

Gareth Bale surpassed the legendary Ian Rush as Wales’ top scorer in the 6-0 rout over China. The Real Madrid superstar bagged a hat-trick in manager Ryan Giggs’ first game in charge.

Chris Gunter (86) became the country’s most capped outfield player and young Harry Wilson got his first start and grabbed his first goal on his 21st birthday.

That win saw the Welsh face Uruguay in the China Cup final on Monday but the impressive South Americans hit the post twice through Luis Suarez before Edinson Cavani grabbed the winner.

THE mighty Zlatan has shown he is human after all.

The self-proclaimed footballing God whose twitter bio boasts ‘lions don’t compare themselves to humans’ tried to convince the world he had overcome a serious knee injury quick smart like some kind of higher being.

Ibrahimovic roared into Old Trafford and was incredible in his first season. Sadly he has left as meekly as a kitten – heading into semi-retirement with MLS side LA Galaxy.

His stint as a Red Devil brought him gongs in the Europa League and League Cup – secondary competitions to such a champion.

And he ruined his proud record of winning the title with every club he turned out for since he secured a first-team place at Ajax – going on to lift league trophies with Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG but not United.

AND finally this week Alexis Sanchez has been talking to the person he loves the most – himself.

The Chile star posted a picture on Instagram with a little motivational speech saying “I know you’re tired. I know you are psychologically and emotionally exhausted. BUT YOU HAVE TO SMILE AND CONTINUE.”

This comes off the back of reports that the £500,000 a week footballer is upset and eating alone at his new club Manchester United. Poor lamb. Would like some cheese to go with that whine, Alexis?

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