Sunday, 27 June 2010

England v Germany

Germany 4 Klose, Podolski, Mueller 2
England 1 Upson, and Lampard really

Well, at least things can get back to normal now. The BBC button on my toolbar will soon be reset to Football, rather than World Cup 2010, and in six weeks time we'll be kicking off at Ashton Gate. Our first game is against Millwall, and if anything's going to banish any lingering thoughts of the beautiful game that is.

I'm sure the rage and pessimism will be back too, as soon as the first soft goal goes in. Fookin' get it together City! they'll shout. That was England defending, that was!

Fans like ironic twists on their heckles, and it's not just England giving them new material. The next time there's a dirty foul or someone feigns an injury, they can recycle an old favourite. Brazil! It's just like watching Brazil! The baseline assumptions remain the same, though. How do you know when someone's feigning an injury? All away side injuries are feigned, and if they're carried off on a stretcher and substituted, it's just method acting. I've missed it, and it'll be nice to be back.

I don't know if Mick Jagger has a club, but he was back in the crowd again for England, after watching the USA crash and burn with Bill Clinton the day before. He must be having a shit World Cup. Just like us. Mark Lawrenson said he probably wasn't getting any satisfaction, but that's Lawrenson all over, always with the obvious line. It's not like he's evil or anything, but if you walked into your village pub and he was in there on his own, you'd pretend you were just getting some matches and walk out again.

Am I a little more barbed today? Is the inner me leaking out again? It's because today's the day. Every two years we go through the Grim Day. And hasn't it come round early this year?

Actually, two years ago we never even made it to the tournament. Croatia did for us, on a wet November night in 2007. It felt strange and premature, having the Grim Day in the winter. Normally the weather makes you feel worse ironically, rather than actually echoing your mood like some Shakespearean heathland storm.

In 2006 it was Portugal that did for us. I blogged that World Cup as well, and this is an extract from the post I wrote about our exit that time.

It’s just vicious, really. Like free range calves, they get to run around the field for a few weeks, but then out come the chainsaws. Discounting the third place playoff, a poor apology for a wooden spoon game which is now beyond our wildest dreams, all the last sixteen games exist entirely for the purpose of inflicting the dreary ennui of defeat on one nation after another.

Children cry themselves to sleep, grown men hide under blankets all day, flags droop sadly on the bonnets of cars. Everywhere around the world. Including qualification, every country in the entire world except one goes through this every four years, every two years if you count the continental cups.

At least England - finally - managed to give us some halfway decent football. With their backs to the wall, they played with the legs of a leaping gazelle and the fighting spirit of Douglas Bader, as opposed to the other way round like they had been doing.


And the Portuguese have a semifinal with France. Good luck, you both have a 25% chance of not ending up feeling like we do.

In fact, they both ended up with Gallic and Iberian Grim Days of their own, and Germany have a 12.5% chance of avoiding the same fate. Oh, and for those who may be tempted to carp, no I haven't just done the Douglas Bader joke for the third World Cup in a row, I've quoted it. So there.

Much of what I wrote back when being a grey haired old fart was almost novel still applies now it's become routine. There are two differences this time though.

Firstly, Grim Day 2006 happened just after the first episode of a Doctor Who two-parter, so we had to cope with Cybermen running amok, Daleks occupying London and going out of the World Cup all at the same time. This year we've just had the final episode of a series, so although I haven't watched it since the tournament started I'm assuming everything in the rest of the universe is now fine.

Secondly, last time I was able to write that at least England - finally - managed to give us some halfway decent football. This time we've had the disappointing but ultimately successful group stage, without the brief recovery.

Now be off with you. I have to turn my head until the darkness goes.

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