Leading article: Sweat and tears

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Sven Goran Eriksson had a real failure of imagination when he explained away England's lacklustre performance against Paraguay in the World Cup as the consequence of heat.

Whatever the reason for England's sluggish performance when confronted by a team representing one of Latin America's smallest, poorest countries, it strains credulity to suggest an agreeable-sounding temperature of 74 degrees can have "knocked us in the second half," as the England coach opined.

As Eriksson must know, the English not only like heat but will go to insane lengths to expose themselves to it, being miraculously persuaded that the more of it, the better. "At twelve noon the natives swoon, and no further work is done," Noel Coward noted, "But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun." And Coward penned those lines in the 1930s, long before sun-worship really took off in the 1960s.

As Coward suggested, the kind of searing heat that sends the sensible residents of most hot countries off for a long siesta in a darkened room traditionally has had the opposite effect on the English, who will make use of the most heart-attack-inducing, asphalt-melting inferno to redouble their normal schedule of activities, whether that means swimming, shopping, eating or, of course, drinking. They would treat the notion that the English could ever be "knocked back" in a pallid 74 degrees with contempt.

As an explanation for our team's subdued efforts on the pitch, it offers only a crumb of comfort. Cold comfort, one might say.