Desert Outtakes: Bellingham the sort of lad McCoist would let date his hypothetical daughters

Depay pays tribute to the USA; AFL competes with soccer for limelight


“I have five boys but if I had five daughters I would probably let Jude Bellingham take them all out at the same time. I would. He is that kind of boy. With the greatest of respect, I wouldn’t let wee Jack Grealish near my granny.”

Ally McCoist. Poor Jack.

Number: 400

That’s how many million euros Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr are reported to have offered Cristiano Ronaldo for a two-year contract. It’d help pay the bills.

Word of Mouth

“I don’t want to big him up too much because he is still young - but he’s one of the most gifted players I have ever seen, he has no weakness. I think he will be the best midfielder in the world.”


Phil Foden bigs up Jude Bellingham muchly.

“Lotta bark, no bite.”

Memphis Depay pays a warm tribute to the USA as they head for home.

“I had obviously seen him a few times on TV, but there is a big difference between watching him and facing him. There he seems even more unstoppable. He impressed me unbelievably. The shots, the dribbling, the speed. He is an extra-terrestrial.”

Poland’s Piotr Zielinski on the otherworldly blur that is Kylian Mbappé.

“De Roon is a very task-oriented player. Ask him to follow Messi, and he will follow him - even in to the shower if necessary.”

Former Dutch international Ruud Vormer insisting that Marten de Roon’s unique man-marking skills make him the man to keep Lionel quiet on Friday.

Clash of the Aussie codes

Pettiest Act of the Entire World Cup: Well, down Australia way they have no doubt who deserves this particular award - the Aussie Rules’ AFL people.

So, Australia were playing Argentina in the last 16 at the World Cup on Saturday, the kick-off taking place at the crack of Sunday’s dawn down under. If you were in Sydney, for example, the game started at six in the morning.

So when did the AFL release their round one fixtures for the 2023 season? If you were in Sydney, for example, at six in the morning.

Yes, the AFL chose to time the release of these fixtures, which don’t take place until March of next year, at precisely the moment a rival code was kicking off in a mega huge World Cup game.

As Georgia Parker, the former Australian hockey international and Aussie Rules player, put it: “Lol at the AFL. Giving me serious “ex partner putting up a selfie and a motivational quote hoping their ex sees it when really they’re off living their best life, and probably has already unfollowed them” vibes.”

More Word of Mouth

“God Save Notre King.”

L’Équipe’s headline on Monday, saluting His Majesty Mbappé. That was a slightly better effort than the one in the Daily Express: “Yes Oui Kane.” Hmm.

“Someone just coughs next to Cristiano Ronaldo and he gets a penalty.”

Ignacio Alonso, president of the Uruguayan Football Federation. He has a point.

“There are cats strolling around and he’s scared of them. It makes everyone laugh.”

Randal Kolo Muani showing zero empathy towards his French teammate Ousmane Dembele who is positively freaked out by the number of stray cats in, eh, Catar.

“Giroud is in an optimal psychophysical moment.”

Olivier’s AC Milan coach Stefano Pioli basically saying the lad’s in good nick for a 36-year-old.

Milan curse

When it comes to this World Cup, Inter Milan’s strikers haven’t had a whole lot of luck. Edin Džeko’s Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t qualify, injury ruled Joaquín Correa out of Argentina’s squad and a half-fit Romelu Lukaku had a ‘mare for Belgium, not least in that final game against Croatia when he missed four highly scoreable chances.

Lautaro Martínez still has a chance to put things right, with Argentina through to the quarter-finals, but so far he’s been having a rough time of it - he blanked in that defeat by Saudi Arabia, blanked again against Mexico and was taken off, was dropped for the games against Poland and Australia, coming on against Australia to miss four decent chances, despite Lionel Messi’s very best efforts to help him break his duck.

How unkind have the Italian press been to the fella? You can imagine. “He had time to eat for his third chance, and still missed,” wrote Tuttosport. “He had ‘Lukaku Syndrome’: he had four chances, he didn’t convert one, the first three through his own fault. He would like to break the world, but he did worse than ever,” said La Gazzetta dello Sport.

You can see what’s coming - Martínez is going to score the winner in the World Cup final. It’s inevitable.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times