We couch potatoes are missing nothing. It's a pity the team can't say the same

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The Independent Online

Millions of football fans faced a Survivor-style challenge yesterday – watch four World Cup matches from 6.30am through to 2.30pm, possibly without time for food and drink.

Millions of football fans faced a Survivor-style challenge yesterday – watch four World Cup matches from 6.30am through to 2.30pm, possibly without time for food and drink.

While many pubs had licences to open in time for the England-Sweden game at 10.30am – our local was offering a "breakfast bap and a pint for £5" – most viewers watched at home.

The first task was to be up for Argentina-Nigeria, not just because it was on, but also because England meet both these teams in their group and (look away now) need four points off them to stay in the World Cup. I had a choice of waking devices: the alarm on my mobile phone, a really irritating noise; my wife's clock-radio, which emits soothing birdsong but sent me back to sleep the only time I ever used it; or our chickens could wake me with a jolly, countryside "cock-a-doodle-do" (an overrated experience).

In the end, I was woken by two of our cats doing an early enactment of the Tyson-Lewis fight. After chasing the bastards out through the cat flap, it wasn't worth going back to bed. Besides, it was 5.30am, and the huge red sun was rising like ... well, like a giant football, actually.

After tea (v.v. strong), toast and orange juice, I was spot on time as "Stubbsy" and "Lawro" opened for the Beeb at 6.15am. While they looked bright and scrubbed, I was neither dressed nor shaved. If you've seen Tony Soprano in his dressing-gown with his hair like a smuggler's parrot, you get the picture. Essential grooming could have been done at half-time in the Argentina-Nigeria game, but the football couch potato knows nothing can be missed.

As the match finished, my wife came down with a look I read like a neon sign: "How come you can get up this early for football but not to get the kids ready for school?" Fortunately, Paraguay-South Africa was under way and my sons, plus two friends on a "sleepover", trickled down to forestall any debate.

ITV then pulled a flanker at half-time by switching Paraguay to ITV2 (is that still going?) and a protracted preview of the England game began. I managed a quick brushing of teeth during adverts. The sofa was now filling up for The Big One, as the boys came off the PlayStation.

This was the 10th World Cup I'd watched, having started at the top with 1966. For them, it was more or less the first. But we all jumped in unison as Sol Campbell's header thumped in. "Inger-land" were in front, although clearly not in control. The inevitable happened as Danny Mills blundered. "He's crap!" shouted Matt, a phrase being screamed simultaneously the length and breadth of the country.

As England escaped with a lucky draw, the boys drifted off to ride bikes in the garden, not knowing 36 years of hurt now looked like continuing. Nor, indeed, that Spain-Slovenia had just started on BBC1.

Had they stayed, the boys would have seen Spain, who have had almost as much trouble as England in World Cups, give a classic example of how to fight off a comeback.

Leading 2-1, with Slovenia pressing, Spain passed the ball around and ran down the clock, then sealed the game with a penalty. Pity the England players weren't watching.

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