Early Doors

England bierfest books date with Germans

Early Doors

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The tense manner in which England clinched their 1-0 victory over Slovenia, and with it a place in the last 16 of the World Cup, meant the final whistle wasn't exactly a champagne moment, but Jermain Defoe's goal was just the tonic the players and their beleaguered fans needed in Port Elizabeth.

Fabio Capello revealed after the match that he let his players enjoy a beer the night before, and no doubt that will be held up as the tactic that united a squad troubled by a very public whine from John Terry and helped rediscover the "English spirit" that the manager is always referring to.

Nothing to do with drafting in Defoe and James Milner into the team, of course. 

Understandably, before the match in Nelson Mandela Bay the travelling England support was not so much excitedly expectant as demanding delivery from Our Boys.

Fan flags draped around the bars of Nelson Mandela Bay before the match included one saying "I want my money back" and another bearing the line "6,000 miles for what!!". The punctuation was poor, but the sentiment was clear.

England provided an answer to that grammatically inaccurate question with their win but, thanks to their nerve-wracking finish by failing to kill the match off, the mood afterwards among the fans was relieved and underwhelmed instead of jubilant.

That profligacy in front of goal hit Early Boers harder than most. EB's prediction for the results sweepstake amongst the media was for Defoe to score first and for England to win 2-0. The pot was positively bursting too, as it was a rollover from the Algeria game, when no one plumped for a goalless draw. Bah!

Capello's players will certainly need to bring a barrel-load of spirit to Bloemfontein on Sunday when they face Germany in the second round.

The reunion with England's greatest World Cup nemesis was confirmed when Landon Donovan's late strike saw USA beat Algeria 1-0 in Group C's other match, before the Mannschaft beat Ghana 1-0 later on Wednesday.

Had England topped the group, then they would have booked a game against Ghana, and then either Uruguay or South Korea in the quarter-finals (*sigh*).

Instead, EB is steeling itself for three days of archive footage of missed penalties, tired references to wars and battles and more jingoistic headlines than you can shake a bratwurst at. See, it's started already.

And, if they exorcise those demons, the cycle will repeat if Argentina make it past Mexico. Then it's Spain. Then Brazil.

Just thinking about it calls for a stiff drink.

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So, with France's squabbling squad flown home and England's rejuvenated campaign hopefully dispelling the unrest within the camp, that's the end of all the World Cup beef, right? Not even close.

Algeria's Rafik Saifi raised the bar for bitterness at this tournament to a sinister and reprehensible level when he slapped a female reporter across the face following his team's defeat to USA.

The late substitute spotted Asma Halimi as he walked through the post-match mixed zone and hit her, getting a retaliatory punch in the mouth for his troubles. It is believed that there was existing ill-feeling between the pair over an article Halimi wrote.

After the South African police have been so eager to imprison Dutch PR girls and fans who get lost looking for the toilets, let's hope they will be knocking on Saifi's door before the Desert Foxes can leave the country.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Click-click-BANG!!" - After so much bland commentary from the host broadcasters here in South Africa, SABC appear to have drafted in hardcore rapper DMX after this description of Mesut Ozil's stunning winner for Germany. More hip hop commentary please!

FOREIGN VIEW: "Thierry Henry called the president from South Africa and told him he wanted to see him as soon as possible after his return to France." - French government spokesman Luc Chatel reveals the Les Bleus bench-warmer will meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held a meeting with sports ministers yesterday over the national team's in-fighting and acrimonious exit.  

BOERMY ARMY TWEET OF THE DAY: "@EarlyBoers I can give a proof to what you say. Let's watch (or hear) this... http://bit.ly/b57xpM" - EB's French counterpart, MD_eurosportfr, supports this blog's love for the vuvuzela.

COMING UP: It's the turn of Groups E and F to provide their winners and losers today. Follow live commentary of Slovakia v Italy and Paraguay v New Zealand at 15:00, followed by Denmark v Japan and Cameroon v Netherlands at 19:30.

Plus, there's the Armchair Pundit with his daily briefing on last night's action and today's matches.

There will be plenty of analysis from our select squad of experts.

And the World Cup news ticker is already ticking away with World Cup news. Just as it should be.

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