From the moment the John Terry scandal broke, and rumours of his affair with Wayne Bridge's former partner became public knowledge, a key date was always going to be England's next game, at home to Egypt.
Terry's performance in his 59th match for his country was scrutinised by the watching public, some of whom booed him during the game, but the former captain declared himself happy with the way he coped at Wembley. "It was important I came out and played the way I did," he said after the match. "I was pleased with my performance, but more important was the performance of the team. Everyone contributed, especially the players who came on."
In the intervening weeks since "Terrygate", he has been replaced as captain, Bridge has announced his withdrawal from England squads for the foreseeable future, and the pair have played against each other in last weekend's enthralling contest, when Bridge's Manchester City won 4-2 at Terry's Chelsea.
There was a reminder of Saturday's confrontation with City's Carlos Tevez last night when the Argentine striker was quoted as saying the Chelsea defender would be "dead" if he had behaved like that in his homeland.
"Terry, in Argentina, would be dead," Tevez said. "If a player in my country had a romance with the girlfriend of a team-mate he would not survive. Terry has no moral code after what he did to Bridge. Where I come from if you do that kind of thing then they cut off your legs."
Terry has now met up with his fellow England players, including those who are said to privately take a dim view of his conduct towards his former close friend Bridge, and Wednesday night's 3-1 victory in some respects brings this grubby chapter in England's World Cup season to an end.
Fabio Capello, the England manager, has to keep his fingers crossed there are no more revelations that have yet to be aired in public. As ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley drily observed during the Egypt match: "Only 14 more editions of the Sunday newspapers to go before the World Cup, Fabio." The message Capello now wants to promote is one of looking to the future, not harking back to the past. "Least said, soonest mended" is Capello's mantra.
As for the players, they were almost as relieved as Terry that by the time of England's next friendly, against Mexico towards the end of May, the focus may well be elsewhere. It has been a dark cloud hovering over the England squad for the past month, with many players clearly uncertain as to how much the bad feeling provoked by Terry's alleged actions would cause problems.
Frank Lampard knows Terry's strengths and weaknesses better than anyone, having shared a dressing room for club and country for almost a decade. The Chelsea midfielder said all the players had a desire to get on with the job and leave past disagreements and negative feelings behind.
"I think we put it behind us," Lampard said. "We showed a good togetherness and spirit on the pitch. It's only been two or three days and people are concentrating on their football. We've tried to block out any negative feeling. The fans were supportive. The players understand the booing, whatever their thoughts on different issues. We have to try to take out the negativity because that can affect people. People can analyse things around the hotel and stuff but what's important is when you train, you train hard, and when you play, you play as a group. And we showed, as we did throughout the campaign, that we play as a group. We have to carry on doing that to have any chance."
England fell behind to a strike by Mohamed Zidan but recorded their 500th victory since the first international in 1872. Terry claimed the way that England fought back with spirit was evidence the players are not divided. "We've shown that our team spirit has not been damaged. The lads have said it publicly, but I've had a lot of support from them privately as well, which has been really nice. The spirit amongst the lads is fantastic and we showed that by coming from a goal down against a really good side. I hope that draws a line under everything."Reuse content