But Tony Blair and Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister still found enough time to fit in a half-time summit on the continuing crisis over the French ban on British beef.
The bizarre diplomatic interlude at Cardiff Arms Park had echoes of an episode of television's Yes, Prime Minister series, when top civil servant Sir Humphrey advises his boss on how to conduct business at a state funeral.
The meeting between the two premiers was, however, friendly - a sign of the close personal and political relationship between the two men. Perhaps wisely, Mr Blair had chosen not to support either team.
Before the fixture, Downing Street said: "He is hoping for a good game between two great sides."