Leading article: The cross England bears

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The Independent Online

Two important questions must now be addressed in the aftermath of England's shocking defeat in Gelsenkirchen.

We do not refer to who will succeed Sven Goran Eriksson and David Beckham. No, the burning issue of the day - quite literally, perhaps - is what are we to do with all those English flags - millions of the things. Now that we have got so used to the sight of them flapping here, there and everywhere, as if they had always been part of the stage, pulling them down will be a strange and forlorn experience, a bit like packing away the Christmas decorations in the dog days of January.

And then what? As they all appear to made of unperishable material we can hardly dump them in landfills without risking grave damage to the environment. Nor can they be easily stored away and reused for other high days and holidays, as the Union Jack (remember that?) still seems obligatory for most of them.

And that is not the only pressing dilemma the English face. The other conundrum concerns which of our more successful European rivals we should now support.

Portugal, so we hear regularly, is "England's oldest ally" thanks to a treaty of which we know little but which John of Gaunt apparently signed in the 14th century. Alas, those vows of perpetual friendship have taken a knock since that nasty business between Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.

That leaves France, Italy and Germany. As the idea of rooting for "Les Bleus" just seems unconscionable - as odd as Scotland rooting for England, we are left with Italy and Germany. It is a grim choice, indeed.

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