WORLD CUP PLAY-OFF TOMBOLA
When you're tasked with the responsibility of pairing up eight football teams into four different two-legged ties, the last thing you want is some ham-fisted dilettante in charge. That's why the Fiver was relieved to see Gordon Savic overseeing the tombola for this afternoon's World Cup 2014 European play-off draw, an event that couldn't have gone more smoothly apart from one sticky moment when, with an excessively showy flourish, he came this close to sending one yellow ball spinning out of its Pyrex dish, skittering across the official Fifa stage and into the front row.
A Fifa delegate billed by his employers as Head of Fifa World Cup qualifiers and "a veteran of many draws", Savic was today helped by his glamorous assistant, Alex Frei, himself a veteran of many draws – what with him having played 523 matches for club and country, many of which finished all square. Between them the pair were tasked with matching up seeded sides Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine with their non-seeded counterparts France, Sweden, Romania and France into four play-offs to be played over two legs in November. The outcome? Portugal v Sweden, Ukraine v France, Greece v Romania and Iceland v Croatia.
"It is an interesting draw and I am looking forward to the tie, very much so," said Lars Lagerbäck, coach of Iceland, the smallest, most picturesque nation in the play-offs, who everybody except those pesky Croatians will want to win. " We are the underdogs on paper of course but I think we surprised a few people in our group and we hope to do that again."
Arguably the most interesting match-up in the play-offs is Him v Him, who will carry the hopes of Portugal and Sweden on their respective shoulders when they go toe to toe on 15 and 19 November. It is a pairing that left the Fiver's blonde and blue-eyed, furniture-assembling Swedish cousin Bjorn Benny Agnetha Anni-Frid Ikea Fiversson in a slough of despair. But in better news for our Scandinavian relative, it is also a pairing that left the Fiver's wall-building, fish-eating, family-oriented Portuguese cousin Not To Be Confused With The Fiver's Siesta-Taking, Castanet-Clacking Spanish Cousin Juan Miguel Manuel Ole! Ole! Ole! Fiver Costa Fiver in a slough of despair, even if their team's manager, Paulo Bento, looked fairly pleased as he jabbered away in foreign in the wake of another successful draw helmed by wannabe bingo-caller Savic.
QUOTE OF THE DAY ONE
"Youri celebrated rather excitedly" – FC Twente manager Michel Jansen explains how his assistant manager, Youri Mulder, fist-pumped a tooth right out of his gob for him while celebrating their goal against Ajax yesterday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY TWO
"He blames us for dirtying his image but he is doing a great job of it himself" – World Cup and Big Cup-winning former France left-back, Bixente Lizarazu, looks down from his position up there on the moral high ground before responding to being called 'a tramp' – among other things – by Patrice Evra.
"David Ginola – no manners but what a critic. Manages to do in zero words what an infinite number of [space] monkeys given an infinite number of typewriters and infinite time would struggle to; an accurate portrayal of Jake Humphrey …" – Noble Francis.
"Wilshere's goal...? Pffff" – Robert Murphy.
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BITS AND BOBS
Mr Roy and Rio Ferdinand have joined an FA commission into the future of English football that is rapidly looking about as well planned as a passing move in England's 2010 World Cup midfield.
Theo Walcott has been ruled out of Arsenal's matches against Borussia Dortmund, Crystal Palace and Chelsea due to a setback in his recovery from stomach-ouch.
The Spurs doormat can expect to feel the force of a weighty FA fine landing upon it anytime soon after a smoke bomb thrown from the Tottenham end hit a linesman at Villa Park yesterday.
Nasty Leeds have suspended winger Ryan Hall for doing an interesting tweet that has since been deleted.
And in the football's not all bad dept: Wolves fan Peter Abbott, who missed his first home game at Molineux since 1976 to go to his stepdaughter's wedding on Saturday, was "astonished" when the club sent Steve Bull along to the reception. "The club arranged for him to be there as a big surprise," whooped Abbott. "He's a legend."
STILL WANT MORE?
Know your Swedish egotist from your Portuguese, um, egotist? Find out with our Zlatan v Ronaldo quiz.
Barcelona didn't score, Atlético Madrid lost, but at least Pedro León seems back to his old self, writes Sid Lowe.
Fioentina, Juventus and the return of Giuseppe Rossi – Paolo Bandini on the Serie A weekend.
Francesco Totti is still dead good, writes Pao … erm, Sean Ingle.
Ten talking points on the weekend action. Read. Muse. Then join the 720-odd others in the comments.
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