Knights and nuns of the far-flung shires drink the stadium dry
Thursday 24 June 2010
It was the minimum that was required but it was more than enough for England fans who had made their way to Port Elizabeth. All around the stadium provincial banners were draped: Yeovil, Wycombe and Scunthorpe had come in hope more than expectation.
Despite the tension reported before this match between fans and players the customary roar was given to England as they came out to warm up. In the crowd, which was overwhelmingly English, knights sat with grown men dressed in wigs and bras – watching England requires a sense of humour.
Outside the ground the supporters had already shown England's extraordinary capacity for drink. Inebriated supporters were helped into ambulances, and other fans, their faces as red as their shirts, traded boasts over how drunk they were.
Once the action was under way an early goal gave relief for the accumulated tension.
Joanna Roach who had travelled from Scunthorpe to her first England game, screamed herself hoarse in the stands. "This is what I came for. We're going to the semi-finals."
Three small pockets of Slovenes did their best to answer the army of St George. Throughout the first half they stayed on their feet chanting and waving flags. For almost the first time at this World Cup there were practically no neutrals inside the stadium. The vuvuzelas and hordes in green and gold who have been such a feature of the finals so far had finally gone. The wailing of horns gave way to the usual back catalogue of England chants.
England's miserable showing before yesterday had done little to dampen the enthusiasm. Paul Bennun, freshly arrived from London, said: "We're going to win this. I've come a long way to see this. It's only Slovenia. Surely we've got to win."
The early optimism gave way in the second half to complacency both from fans and players. With alcohol freely on sale the stadium came to resemble an English beer garden. Officials at the stadium said that this was the first time that bars at the ground had been drunk dry. The comfort zone disappeared late in the game as it seemed to dawn on England's followers that a single goal from Slovenia would send them home earlier than expected. Many of the fans already had tickets for the knockout stages and were speculating amongst each other whether England would play next in Bloemfontein or Rustenberg.
With the US seemingly drawing a blank against Algeria England seemed set to win the group. Only the increasing agitation of Fabio Capello in the technical area hinted that all was not well. Supporters sporadically called out for Joe Cole to be sent on, which eventually he was. England finished the game wasting time in the corners as the supporters chanted their relief.
Outside the stadium a modest performance had done little to humble England supporters who passed their time by jeering their opponents, calling out: "Bye bye Slovenia."
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Migrants crossing the Mediterranean: Pope Francis joins calls for EU action on boat refugees
Yemen crisis: Meet the child soldiers who have forsaken books for Kalashnikovs
Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Isis in Afghanistan: Group claims responsibility for Jalalabad suicide bombing that killed 35
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...