Watching the England game, with the German ambassador to Britain

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The Independent Football

"At least we got a few beers down at the German taxpayers' expense," was the verdict of Phil Hudson, one of a small handful of Englishmen who, a little foolhardily in hindsight, accepted an invitation to watch yesterday's match at the German Ambassador's Residence in London.

They were joined by well over a hundred mainly German guests at the house on Belgrave Square, where they ate pretzels and frankfurters and supped Munich beer. Several big screens had been erected all round the spacious venue. In the imposing central lobby, a 9ft high George IV (painting) cast a stern eye over proceedings. He was the nineteenth century King who ruled simultaneously over England and Hanover.

"I think even he saw it cross the line," conceded two female German fans, replete with face paint, as the England fans - few and far between - went almost as mad as his father - George III.

"I didn't see it. I had one eye closed," was the ever-so-diplomatic verdict of German Ambassador Georg Boomgarden. "Though I think maybe the referee had both eyes closed."

"It was clearly over the line," conceded German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, magnanimous in, well, victory. In spite of his area of expertise, and a well documented resemblance to Lothar Matthaus, he declined to offer any advice to England's beleaguered back line.

At half time Germany's ARD Television, (full name: "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland") fed in especially for the occasion, dug up an ancient clip in grainy black and white. Apparently this was not the first goal line controversy in World Cup history.

Had England won yesterday they would, of course, have gone on to win the whole tournament. The German fans though were a little more reticent. "We are a young team, so it will be very hard for us," said Benjamin Schulz. "Looks like Argentina next. I hope we win but I wouldn’t bet money on it."

Verena, from the German Chamber of Commerce, said: “Argentina. That’s how far we’ll get.”

As humiliating a defeat as it was for all England fans, few could have had it worse than one who, as his countrymen swiftly departed on the full time whistle, was still contractually obliged not to remove his lederhosen and continue playing the accordion.

"It's only a game," said Ambassador Boomgarden at full time, whose German flag will still be flying outside the embassy tomorrow. Next door the Spaniards still have theirs up, and the Portuguese down the road. Maybe England should be a bit more like the Turkish, the Norwegians, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists - they're all proudly flying theirs and they didn't even qualify.

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