England pay a bitter penalty

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The Independent Online
The end, when it came, left English football fans heartbroken. Heroic efforts from the England team, who were the better side over 90 minutes, yielded but a single goal, matched by the Germans. And in the end, as in 1990 against the Germans, England lost in a penalty shoot-out.

The first five penalties took the nation on a roller-coaster ride of euphoria as first England then the Germans scored. But Gareth Southgate, one of the stalwarts of the campaign, missed England's sixth and ended English hopes of reaching the final. Thousands of England fans stood ashen faced and stunned after the Germans repeated their shoot-out victory in the World Cup semi-final in Turin six years ago.

Predictably, a scattering of louts vented their frustration by throwing bottles in London's Trafalgar Square. There were some ugly scenes as police moved in to remove the ringleaders and made a number of arrests. More missiles were thrown at the police who responded with a number of charges into the part of the crowd where the missiles appeared to originate.

Ambulances were brought in to carry off casualties who were hit by flying beer bottles. Motorists driving past the square were threatened and their cars damaged by angry supporters.

Even as these ugly scenes unfolded hundreds of other congregated in the square and chanted their support for the valiant, vanquished, England side, congregating around the base of Nelson's Column to wave Union flags and sing.

The majority of supporters though, were too wrung out, too exhausted by exhilaration, fear and final despair of the match to join in. Subdued, they wiped the flag of St George greasepaint from their faces and traipsed homewards.

They had suffered the agonies of a twisting and turning period of extra time in which England had hit a post and Paul Gascoigne twice came within inches of giving England the goal that would have extended their European championship campaign.

After crowding around the packed bars and cafes of Leicester Square, craning their necks to see the drama unfold on wall- mounted television sets inside, most ended the evening sadly disillusioned. John Hawkins, 25, an accounts executive from the Isle of Wight, reflected the downcast mood of the nation: "It was desperately disappointing. I don't think we did anything wrong, we were just unlucky. The Germans were a very, sound defensive unit. A really tough outfit to break down. The closing moments were just painful to watch. I think the whole country will wake up to a bad, nasty hangover."

The ugly scenes in central London marred what had otherwise been a peaceful event. A Scotland Yard spokesman at Wembley said 19 English people had been arrested in and around the stadium, 10 for touting, five for being drunk and disorderly, two for possession of drugs, and two for having forged tickets.

German fans sang "Now we are coming home" after their team's dramatic victory. Thousands headed to the centre of London to celebrate. "Now all we want is a party in London," said Jens Neusel, from Thuringen. "This was the best match ever - especially after all this hype." They agreed England had been unlucky. "A penalty shoot-out is always unfair and I hope there are no bad feelings from English fans," said Thomas Berdmann, 41, from Munich. "The English must have had a flashback from 1990 and lost their nerve."

Betting madness, page 18

Full reports, pages 26,28