Beckham's not bothered, Rooney's said sorry, and the manager, Fabio Capello, who famously said "I exist to win", now faces the humiliating prospect of an early World Cup exit. As England prepare for their crunch game against Slovenia on Wednesday, players and officials have quickly moved to prevent a national drama exploding into crisis.
As South African police stepped up their search for an irate fan who barged his way into the team dressing room, minutes after the goalless draw against Algeria, to express his personal frustration, FA officials and David Beckham moved faster than the England team did during the game to play down the incident. The fan walked unchallenged into the England dressing room, shortly after Princes William and Harry had left, to voice his disappointment with the team's Cape Town performance.
Speaking at an FA reception in Johannesburg yesterday, Beckham showed more control than his colleagues managed the previous evening. "The fan literally just walked in, very casually, and just said something to me and then walked out. There was no scuffle, there was no aggression at all," he said.
England's star striker, Wayne Rooney, also revealed a defter touch off the pitch than he achieved on it, when he apologised for his sarcastic outburst criticising the England supporters who booed the team off after the 0-0 draw. Rooney was captured on camera remarking, as he walked off: "It's nice to see your own fans booing you." His comments threatened to overshadow the team's preparation for next Wednesday's fixture, prompting the FA to issue an apology. "Last night, on reflection, I said things in the heat of the moment that came out of frustration of both our performance and the result," it said. "For my part, I apologise for any offence caused by my actions at the end of the game."
Fans were less forgiving. Andy Dodsworth, 35, from Birmingham, said: "Fans booed at the end because they were disappointed. They want this team to do well, they want them to win the World Cup. During the game we never stopped singing and making noise. If he can't see that, he's thicker than I thought."
In a sign of the tensions across the country, the chain store HMV was forced to remove its "Anyone But England" World Cup window displays from its Scottish stores, after complaints that they were racist. Officers from Fife Police are to visit the store in Gordon Brown's Kirkcaldy constituency tomorrow to discuss the matter further.
The reception to the performance against Algeria has been scathing. "Cape Clowns," said the Daily Mirror. "The reign of Fabio Capello which has promised so much for so long came close to ending in ignominy and shame." The Sun, which last year said Steven Gerrard's side were the "best English group since the Beatles", was rather less upbeat. "Drab, dreary, depressing, disjointed, at times desperate and, overall, dull as ditchwater. Thanks England. No wonder you were booed off the pitch by your own fans last night."
Cyberspace was equally uncharitable: "3 hours of football played and Rob Green is still our top scorer," an irate fan posted on Twitter. The nation's patience with Capello also seems to be fading. One furious fan wrote on an internet site: "What we witnessed looked like a group of players drafted together last minute and asked to play 90 minutes which they weren't too fussed about doing, going through the motions disinterested and confused. The botheredness levels stood at around 1 out of 10. It was just woeful."