Back home, flags come down as dream ends

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The Independent Online

They disappeared in their thousands overnight. Many of the flags of St George, which had fluttered in unprecedented numbers from the nation's cars, houses and pubs in recent days, had been quietly taken down yesterday after England's nerve-jangling defeat at the hands of Portugal in Lisbon.

They disappeared in their thousands overnight. Many of the flags of St George, which had fluttered in unprecedented numbers from the nation's cars, houses and pubs in recent days, had been quietly taken down yesterday after England's nerve-jangling defeat at the hands of Portugal in Lisbon.

The excitement of the match had given way to gloom and feelings of injustice.

According to psychologists, the sense of national grief will eventually cede to pride at the achievements of Sven-Goran Eriksson's men. Some flags will continue to fly. We will learn to live with the inconsistencies of the Stade da Luz penalty spot.

At a joint press conference with Irish premier Bertie Ahern, Tony Blair was looking forward with hope: "Of course we want the result to be different, and that is the way it goes sometimes. But I'm sure we will come back and we have the World Cup to look forward to."

Mr Ahern however, was still looking backwards. "I honestly believe the Sol Campbell goal was a goal," Mr Ahern said.

In a rare act of compassion even the bookmakers were tapping the national mood. William Hill said it was prepared to pay out to anyone who had bet on Campbell being the final goalscorer in normal time.

The gesture will cost an estimated £100,000 - Campbell was 33-1 to score the final goal - but as no one needs reminding, his effort was disqualified.

The match became the second most watched match in British TV history as 24.7m viewers tuned in to the BBC's live coverage. A further 1.67m watched the highlights on ITV1.

The audience peaked during the penalty shoot-out - an 84 per cent audience share. It is second only to the England v Argentina game in the 1998 World Cup. Then England's defeat on penalties, was watched by a peak audience of 26 million.

But alongside the melancholy, there was violence. In the worst incident, 100 men surrounded a packed Portuguese-owned pub in Thetford, Norfolk pelting it with rocks and bottles.

Around 80 Portuguese fans had watched the game at the Red Lion with 40 English friends. Jorge Pascoal, 37, an adviser to Portuguese immigrants, was trapped inside the pub with his wife Ana, 35, and 10-year-old son Tiago. He said only the police prevented the mob from entering the pub and attacking those within. 15 people were arrested.

"The windows are all smashed, some of our cars were smashed. Basically everything is devastated. It was shaming," said Mr Pascoal.

In Jersey where around 10 per cent of the island's population is Portuguese, 14 people including four Portuguese were arrested. Cans and coins were thrown during an incident involving 700 people outside the Portuguese Club in St Helier.

Police used CS spray and wore full riot gear to help quell the disturbances. Police said the scale of the violence was unprecedented in recent memory.

Thames Valley Police are investigating the death of a man at the Cricketers Arms pub in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

In Lisbon, the sun had come out after three days of cloudy conditions. But for many onlookers the tournament had lost some of its sparkle with the departure of the England fans.

After the match there had been marked camaraderie between the two sets of supporters. And yesterday central Lisbon was a model of European integration - the nationalities mixing in good humour.

However, the row over the penalty spot continued. David Beckham criticised the spot claiming that he and Eriksson had reported it to Fifa the night before the match.

Fifa said: "It is not the penalty spot's fault. It is David Beckham wanting to impersonate Jonny Wilkinson."

However, at Luton Airport a somewhat lacklustre 30 fans gathered hoping for a glimpse of the returning England team players. They were expected to deny them a glimpse by leaving the airport by a private exit.

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