Joy as England cruise into next round as second favourites

In the end it was oh so easy. England's fans had dug in for a battle against Viking opposition and enjoyed a pushover instead. With three goals in the first 45 minutes, a nation used to chewing its collective nails to the bone was able to sit back, relax and drink itself silly.

The victory led to a national outpouring of joy and the usual scenes of ecstasy and mayhem – in England at least. In Scotland, nobody smiled.

Unlike tens of millions of England fans, who will smile all week. At least until Friday when England, now 7-2 second favourites, will likely play Brazil, the 5-2 favourites, or else, more hopefully, the unfancied Belgians.

"I just can't believe it's happening," said Gerry Martin yesterday. He had travelled especially into central London from his home in Essex to watch the game. At 55, he was an elder statesman in the Sports Café in Piccadilly among a wave of 20- and 30-somethings, wearing Mohican wigs or ponytails in honour of their two hero Davids – Beckham and Seaman.

"The atmosphere here is electric. I must be the oldest bugger here but I won't be the first to go home tonight," shouted Gerry above the din.

At the end of the match, the crowd poured out – as they did in every West End bar – and headed for Trafalgar Square where thousand did the conga and enjoyed a soaking in the fountains.

"We can go all the way. Forget about Bobby Charlton, what about Sir Sven?" said a jubilant Chris Dandy, 25, from Redhill, Surrey, heading for the fountain. Dean Valler, 24, from Chippenham, Wiltshire, said: "I've never felt this good after an England match – because this proves we can win the World Cup."

Andy Worden, 24, from Essex, added: "It's Jubilee year and the World Cup is meant to be. I'm praying for Belgium to beat Brazil on Monday – but if we do get the Brazilians, we'll make our own samba beat. They won't be dancing on the streets of Rio when we've finished with them."

In Manchester, home to the England heroes Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes, the fans had gone crazy, piling out of the pubs and into the streets there too. Heaven knows how Manchester will react if Beckham does lift the World Cup trophy.

Mark Bassral and his mate Michael Moss successfully created a terrace atmosphere in the heaving pub. They sing the praises of Teddy Sheringham, taunt the Danes who are "going home'' and ask the staircase (or rather the people packed on to it craning for a view) for a song. "It's the first time I can remember when I felt confident that England can win the World Cup,'' says Mark.

By the end of the match, two girls have even managed to rustle up an "England 3 Denmark 0" T-shirt.

If football is a game of two halves – as the old cliché goes – similarly the country is divided. In the Lennox Bar in High Street Dumbarton yesterday the writing was on the wall as to which team the Scots were supporting. "Free vodka or whisky for every goal scored AGAINST England," read the poster in the middle of the room between the bar's two television sets.

For the pub manageress Carolyn Sharp, England's victory against Denmark was bitter-sweet. She had been looking forward to giving away drinks on the house; her plans were thwarted by England's success.

As the final whistle went yesterday one older fan summed up the general mood. Without raising his gaze from the bar where he sat with a half-pint of heavy in one hand and a whisky chaser in the other, he said: "Ah, well, with a bit of luck the Brazilians will sort them out.

"If they don't," he paused, "then the bastards are going to be insufferable."

The England fans in Trafalgar Square, Manchester and everywhere else around the world will drink to that.

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