England's wives put the players into the shades

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The Independent Online

Enjoying a considerable numerical and financial advantage over their Paraguayan rivals, they ended the game sitting serenely in the stands, comfortably ahead by several dozen designer outfits.

This most hollow of victories was not difficult to achieve. Although seven of the Paraguayan squad play in Europe, and therefore are paid substantial salaries, the rest of them are employed in Central and South America. Thus the purchasing power of the Paraguayan wives squad is, compared with England's, lacking in strike power. On the other hand, their tans are real.

Yesterday most of the wives were sporting sunglasses, which is never a reassuring sign. In the case of Victoria Beckham, it was one of the 60 pairs she has brought with her. Nancy Dell'Olio had hers on as she walked with Prince William into the stadium, and Coleen McLoughlin was similarly shaded.

A surfeit of consumables does, however, bring its own problems.

Elen Rives, the partner of Chelsea's Frank Lampard, arrived at Heathrow for Friday's flight to Stuttgart under the impression that the only limit to her hand luggage was her own ambition. When told that some of her many items had to be stowed in the hold, she was not best pleased. So great was her tantrum that she was taken off the flight. After calming down and apologising, she left on a later one.

Another partner having travel problems was Mrs Beckham. Her flight from Madrid was cancelled due to engine failure, and she had to pay £20,000 to hire a private jet for herself and her entourage. The World Cup trousseau of the England captain's wife was reported to include 30 pairs of jeans and trunkfuls of designer dresses by Roberto Cavalli and Chanel. She is said to be limiting herself to five changes of outfit a day.

But, at the end of the day, as their menfolk are wont to say, what this England wives squad will be judged on is their performance where it matters. In other words, how they do in set pieces on retail premises across Germany. They are off to a good start. Peter Crouch's girlfriend, Abigail Clancy, was seen buying a bikini even before she left the airport. If our women can just get through the qualifying stage, this could be their year.

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