Heartbroken and shattered - but it's all the ref's fault

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The Independent Online

Millions of fans were in disbelief and shock at England's controversial defeat last night.

Millions of fans were in disbelief and shock at England's controversial defeat last night.

On a night when the nation came to a standstill, with more than 20 million television viewers thought to have tuned into the match and £20m estimated to have been wagered on the result, fans were left utterly devastated by the two-hour rollercoaster ride.

Fans wept, stared into space or just drowned their sorrows in the aftermath of the loss. They didn't know whether to blame the Swiss referee Urs Meier, or captain David Beckham and substitute striker Darius Vassell for their missed penalties.

Most chose the referee. Fans believed they were robbed by the disallowing of Sol Campbell's goal near the end of normal time. At Newcastle's Centurion Bar, Mark Ward, 32, said: "The referee has given them the chance they need. There was nothing wrong with Campbell's goal, there was no infringement by anyone."

Nathan Smith, 23, watching the game in Brighton, said: "I can't believe we've gone out. Penalties is by far the cruellest way to lose. I thought we had it wrapped up when Sol Campbell got that header. I can't believe the ref disallowed it but yet again we're left to feel cheated."

Anton Kitcher, 25, a carpenter from Maidstone, Kent, said: "The game turned when Rooney was taken off. If he'd still been on the pitch there's no doubt we would have won."

There was disorder outside a Portuguese-owned pub in Thetford, Norfolk, The Red Lion, where an angry crowd of about 300 gathered after the match. Riot police were called to disperse them. The pub's landlord said: "Every window and door in the pub has been broken with bricks and bottles thrown."

In Liverpool, Wayne Rooney's uncle, John Morrey, said at the pub that he owns: "I think they went too defensive once he [Rooney] was off. I think if anyone had a bad tournament it was David Beckham. Wayne had a good tournament. I'm sure he would have put himself up to take a penalty. Whether he would have scored we will now never know.''

Some fans at Mr Morrey's pub, the Old Stanley Arms, were tearful as they spilled out into the Liverpool streets but most were in good spirits as they came to terms with defeat. "The youngsters here are too young to remember the other penalty shoot-out disasters over the years,'' said quantity surveyor Jon Rogers, 41. "I thought we must win just this once but it wasn't to be. Our penalties were awful: most of them hit straight towards the keeper.''

One tiny pocket of England was the scene of wild celebrations last night. In "Little Portugal", an area of Stockwell, south London, full of Portuguese restaurants and bars, it was party-time, with hundreds of fans screaming, cheering and waving their national flag. The fans lined the Stockwell Road after their side's win, holding up traffic, and rubbing in the result to England fans coming home in buses and cars.

A spokesman for bookmakers William Hill said Portugal were now 9/4 second favourites to win the tournament, with France favourites at 2/1.

A spokesman for Ladbrokes said the bookies had escaped a record pay-out now England had been dumped out of the competition.

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