Over here and overexcited: the English and a league of nations

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The Independent Online

The temperature is set to soar along with the tension today as millions of fans ignore the summer sun and settle in a darkened room to watch the first England match.

After the dramas of Rooney's metatarsal, the Beckhams' party and rumours that the footballers' wives and girlfriends are locked in a game of competitive sleeping (after learning that sleep reduces wrinkles they are apparently trying to out-nap each other), the first game will finally begin. And it is not just the footballers who will reap the benefits of a victorious tournament.

Televisions are being sold at a rate of one every 40 seconds, sales of footballs are 226 per cent up on last year and one optimistic punter has bet £200,000 on an England win.

As the tournament gets under way, consumers are spending millions of pounds on food, drink and football-related merchandise. The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that the World Cup could boost the British economy by £1.3bn - more than any other European country except the German hosts. However, the business advisers Grant Thornton are warning that the effect could be cancelled out by the £1.26bn that could be lost through absent and distracted workers.

Supermarkets have reported huge rises in sales of alcohol, barbeques and party food in the past few days. For every week that England stay in the tournament, an extra £124m is expected to be spent on food and drink.

The supermarket giant Tesco expects to sell 5 million cases of beer, 2 million bottles of wine, 7 million sausages and 10 million disposable barbeques throughout the tournament.

A limited edition Mars bar, re-named a "Believe Bar", has been launched, although the optimism seems somewhat muted as it will only be available until 16 June. Coca-Cola has manufactured a football-shaped bottle while Pepsi has a picture of David Beckham on some of its cans.

Sales of official England merchandise are on track to smash all previous records for a single tournament. Replica shirts, footballs and stickers are among the top-selling items, the Football Association said. Fans bought around 18 million England items between January and March this year - more than the entire amount sold in the six months before Euro 2004.

The John Lewis Partnership is selling one high-definition television every 40 seconds, compared with one every minute a week ago, while sales of footballs in its stores are 226 per cent up on last year. Barbeque sales are up seven per cent on last week and this summer's must-have outdoor item, a Weber barbeque, sold out yesterday.

More than £20,000 a minute is expected to be bet during the tournament. The bookmaker William Hill received its biggest-ever World Cup bet yesterday when a man placed £200,000 on England to win. If his prediction comes true, he would scoop £1.2m. Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, said: "His is a big bet but there has been so much backing of England that if they do win the tournament, bookies will be paying out an eight-figure sum. In our hearts we are patriotic, but in our heads we know it would hit us hard."

Ghana: Asher Adams, 36, Catering assistant

"It is a great time for Ghanaian football. I was thinking of going to Germany but now I'll be at home and watching with friends and family. We'll eat some special food - fufuo, a soup made with plantain and cassava and banku. Then afterwards we'll put on some Ghanaian music - Daddy Lumba - and we'll dance.

Ukraine: Ihor Kharchenko, Ambassador

"Some of our media are predicting we will reach the semi-final, which is where we could meet England. I think such a match would be a tremendous opportunity for our two countries to learn about each other. I imagine some people will be singing the Ukrainian World Cup song, Viva Ukrayino!, which is sung to the tune of Queen's We Will Rock You.

Ivory Coast: Manoute Seri, 33, Music festival promoter

"I'm a huge fan of our team - we call them Les Elephants. I'm going to watch the match with friends from across west Africa - Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria.Our fate depends on the outcome of the first game, against Argentina. If we can draw or win that, then I think we can win it. Either way we'll have a great time - we'll eat some oloko and fried plantain and drink Guinness."

Paraguay: Maria Gabriela Porro, 23, Student

"I don't watch football every day of my life but for the World Cup I'm a fan. It's my country after all. We'll be watching the match at home, with some friends and some other people from Paraguay. We'll be drinking perere (green tea) and eating sopa paraguaya (corn souffle). It is a passion for us. I hope we will beat England

Argentina: John Rattagan, 41, Chef

"I've got tickets for the game today so I'm flying to Hamburg to watch Argentina and the Ivory Coast play, and coming back tomorrow and will watch the rest of the Argentina games in my restaurant with anyone who wants to watch."

Saudi Arabia: Khalid Al-Selmi, 39, Diplomat

"I'm a big football fan and follow both the Saudi team as well as my favourite English team, Arsenal. We've put up two huge screens and sent out an open invitation to all the Saudi people in London."

Germany: Fabian Uhlig, 28, Accountant

"It is on home ground, which is a big advantage but the German football team is not what it used to be. The last couple of friendly games including one with Japan have been pretty poor. I'll be watching the games in my local pub and cheering for Germany as loudly as I can safely cheer. I think it's great it is in Germany because it will be good for people to go to a country they might not normally visit and will help to show them what Germany is actually like beyond many people's preconceptions."

Holland: Charlotte Six, 21, Bar worker

"We always come so close to triumph but we never quite make it. But I just have a feeling this is going to be our year. I'm looking forward to working here in the bar during the World Cup. There is going to be an incredible atmosphere. I don't watch football the rest of the year but I love to watch the national team because we are all so excited."

Serbia and Montenegro, Nelita Veselinovic, 31, Hotel manager

"We will be watching all the games here -there has been a lot of excitement and the talk has been of little else. We'll get maybe 200 people in to watch the matches on the big screen - it will be a great atmosphere. Sport is better than war. We know that very well in Serbia. It is nice to have something different to think about other than all the bad things that are happening in the world. It is good just to relax, watch football and drink beer."

Costa Rica: Syliva Ugalde, 36, Diplomat

"The most important thing is the Costa Rican spirit. We have such a small community here in the UK so we will be making every effort to get everyone together to watch the matches. My biggest hope is that we can just be lucky and maybe win. We beat Scotland before remember! People should remember the Costa Rican embassy beat the German embassy 4-0 on Thursday."

Switzerland: Armin Loetscher, 68, Restaurant owner

"It's a tradition to ring the cowbells if we win a match and I hope we'll be ringing the cowbells on Tuesday against France. There's about 10,000 of us from Switzerland living in London and of course for me England is my second team but frankly they're making too much fuss about Rooney."

Czech Republic: Pavel Kovak, 29, Market trader

"We have arranged for a gang of us to go to the big screens while the games are playing. I think we will do very well this World Cup. I mean we have Villa's Milan Baros playing for us. What else can we do but win? We will be in the final, which will go to penalties, but Wayne Rooney will miss and we win."

Spain: Inigo Errandonea, 19, Student

"I feel we will easily get through the group stages but after that we will falter. We fear Brazil and I don't think we have a real chance of winning. We have some good players - Alonso and Canizares for example - but there is not the same strength through the team. I am looking forward to watching the games in England but I will be home in two weeks' time."

Portugal: Helder Batista, 27, Restaurant owner

"There's a great atmosphere at the moment. You can tell it's going to be a fantastic four weeks. I will be watching the games in my kitchen in the restaurant. I really hope England or Portugal win the World Cup. I think England have a really good chance - better than Portugal."

Angola: Paulo Sergio, 26, Student

"It would be very ambitious for Angola to get past the first phase. There is so much excitement about the tournament at home. They have a more powerful team than ever before and we will surprise people a good deal. We have great support."

England: Samantha Smith, 18, Hair and beauty therapist

"I can't wait, I'm so excited. This team is the best I can remember. We will win our group without a doubt. After that we have nothing to be scared of. We have taken on the big teams like Germany and Argentina before. We've got the skill to win it."

Japan: Yoshihiko Takahashi, 23, Student

"The games against Croatia and Australia are very important for us. If we beat them we can afford to lose to Brazil. The supporters in England are interesting - a bit crazy. Not everyone in Japan follows football but in England everyone is obsessed. I am confident we will qualify out of the group but not go much further."

France: Pierre Emmanuel, 25, City banker

"I think France are going to get to the quarter-finals. I hope they can go all the way but no one can know what will happen. I'll be watching the games from home, at work and in the pub. I like the World Cup because it gets people watching players from different countries they don't know much about, like Iran."

Australia: Jess O'Brien, 22, Bar worker

"I'll be watching all the games. All Australians will be. I can't wait for kick-off. There's going to be an awesome atmosphere in the bars. I'm sure we'll have a few beers and join in. I think we've got a chance of winning - but it's just really great to be there at all after so long out of it. We love the chance to get one over the English after the rugby and the Ashes."

Ecuador: George Medina, 24, Bar worker

"I think the Ecuadorian team will get to the next round. I'll watch the games with 150 other Ecuadorians in Elephant and Castle. Usually at home these games are so important. We drink San Miguel and the president has even given us a bank holiday because this game is so important to us. In Ecuador we watch the football with our families so it's the first time I'll be with friends instead."

Italy: Titiana Bianco, 32, Waitress

"I love Italian football. When we didn't win in 1990 it was like a cold shower it was so disappointing. We get so nervous we dig our nails into our legs and scratch them. We celebrate just as much as the English but we don't drink like them. We'll all go out onto the streets with our scooters hooting and if it's sunny we climb into the fountains."

Tunisia: Malek Beyey, 31, Marketing officer

"This is our fourth World Cup and we are hoping to get further this time. We've got a good chance, too, with our first game against Saudi Arabia. For Tunisians, it will be a chance to get together with a feeling of national pride, perhaps enjoy a dish of Tunisian couscous and hope for great things."

Brazil: Hans Sunassee, 26, Shop assistant

"We are the ones to beat. We're looking sharper than the last World Cup which we won. I will watch the games in my local pub, The Gordon Bennett in Tooting.There is a small chance we won't win. If not I would like to see England get the World Cup."

Sweden: Petra Silfverskiold, 26, IT supervisor

"I left Stockholm when I was 17. I might have picked up a bit of Geordie in my accent but I'm Swedish through and through. I'll be going to the pub in my Sweden shirt and braving the England fans. We know our football - we've even lent England their manager."

Iran: Mehran Izadpanah, 23, Beauty therapist

"We don't normally follow football. It's much more for men, but somehow we have got carried away. Most of our players are ugly, but we like the skipper Ali Daei. He scored nine goals to get us to the World Cup."

Togo: Kofi Njoh, 18, Student

"I can't believe we have got to the World Cup finals. It's the first time in our history and I am very proud to able to support them. I am praying for a miracle to see them reach the quarter-finals. I know that Emmanuel Adebayor will inspire us to win, and I will be cheering him on. Most of my friends support England, but that won't keep me quiet."

Poland: Maria Szpitun, 24, Events officer

"It's a really big event in Poland like it is over here. I'm pleased that Poland have qualified, I don't think they did very well in 2002 so anything would be an improvement. To be brutally honest I don't think we will get very far in the competition."

Mexico: Jazz Purewall, 30, Security officer

"All my friends support England, but I am happy to support my homeland. The underdog will show them up. The team has a great passing style and they are going to be hard to beat. They beat Brazil last year and I am hoping I will be getting drunk and doing the Mexican wave many times."

Trinidad and Tobago: Jenny Gordon, 50, Restaurant owner

"It's a miracle that they have made it so far and I honestly think they can win it. It's really unusual to be able to support them at such a huge competition. I'm going to enjoy every second of it and I want our customers to as well."

Croatia: Anita Maric, 29, Photographer

"I think we will do well. We were unbeaten in qualifying and I think this will be our time. I think it's our coach who will make the difference, he has produced a fantastic team. I am sure we are going right to the final. I'm going to be watching whenever I can on the TV, and to celebrate when we win, I will cook our favorite dish, lamb on a spit."

South Korea: Kim Hyounng Soo, 26, Language student

"I am confident we will get out of the group, but I'm worried by France who are still a very good team. I am in England for all the games and the atmosphere is great in Newcastle, they love football here. Everyone is talking about the tournament. Our ability isn't as good as it was four years ago when we were at home. I think a lot of players have got too old now."