- With England on the earliest possible plane home, thanks to Roy’s shonky tactical formation and his inexplicable fondness for Danny Welbeck, we can all now look forward to enjoying the rest of the World Cup and find someone else to support with a clear conscience. Traditionally interest in the latter stages of any tournament is fuelled by schadenfreude, which is a German word for the pleasure derived from watching anybody beat Germany. Or Argentina. Or France. Or Portugal. But let’s be positive, shall we, and so here are the Top 5 Teams You Could Support Instead of England Now England Are Out.
You could support BRAZIL, obviously. And that’s the problem, really, isn’t it? It’s just a bit obvious. Of course there’s the samba-dancing babes, and the yellow shirts, and the jogo bonito, but what are you really saying by supporting Brazil? “I know nothing about football, I’m just happy to be in the conversation.”
There’s the NETHERLANDS, or Holland as ITV are still calling them – it’s as if they’ve never even seen QI. (Did Stephen Fry die in vain?) The colour scheme is great, of course, the brilliant orange, there are some interesting cheeseboard options, and some decent lagers for the new Dutch fan to enjoy. Not to mention a relaxed attitude to other relaxing methods of relaxation. Word of warning, though - there is only one team with a worse record in penalty shoot outs, and they’re already on their way back to Luton.
COLOMBIA have a nice yellow shirt too. And becoming a Colombia supporter could make people think you are connected in some way to drugs cartels, and you might finally start getting the respect at work you so richly deserve. The downside is that it could lead to cavity searches, and nobody wants that.
COSTA RICA, why not? We drew with them, so we can almost imagine that the swathe they cut through the knockout stages could have been England’s swathe, if only... Plus it is a peaceful, cheery, ecologically sound little nation. And if you ask a Costa Rican how he is doing chances are he will reply “Pura vida!”, which means “pure life”. Which is better than “Meh, mustn’t grumble... Mind you, the cricket’s a bit shit, isn’t it?”
MEXICO. Mexico are my tip. They’re playing well, and they have lots of costume possibilities. There’s the moustache, the poncho, the wrestling mask, the sombrero, which is not only a fun signifier of your support but you can also use it to keep nachos in. You get to call people ‘gringo’ which never gets tired, and all their food sounds like swear words – Fajitas! Burritos! Chimichangas! And to top it all off, their coach is a hilarious fat maniac whose nickname is The Louse. Enjoy, gringo!
So it is finally done with for Roy's 23, just five and a bit days after it started.
My Chelsea-supporting friend Steff said to me (when I told him I was writing a book called How To Enjoy The World Cup) that he could never even start to enjoy a major tournament until England were knocked out. I could say that I myself can never really enjoy the Champions League until Chelsea are knocked out, but that's by the by. So it's happy days for Steff now as he can gleefully tuck into games between teams who have lasted longer than England - Honduras v Ecuador last night, Nigeria v Bosnia and also of course not forgetting Herzegovina tonight...
But Steff is of course right in a way, and this is where we can all start to actually enjoy the World Cup properly, and, thanks to Roy's shonky formation and inexplicable reliance on Danny Welbeck, we can get on with it even earlier than expected. And this is where the section in the book entitled How to Pick a Second Team comes into its own. A few you can already cross out, of course - Spain, Australia, Cameroon, and hopefully on Tuesday night Italy.
Piers sent me this picture after the Uruguay game - I feel an Appendix coming on. I should warn against defacing the book, though, because there's no way Oxfam will accept it...
I know the book contains instructions for how to make a world cup wallchart, but those are really only serving suggestions. I have to doff my metaphorical cap at your own invention and respect your colouring-in skills. This is Bobby's effort - I can't help imagining him sticking the tip of his tongue out of the corner of his mouth as he carefully scribbles in that Australian flag...
Sepp Blatter, the world’s most consummately guileless politician, has had a spectacular week, hasn’t he? First describing critics of the clearly corrupt voting process that brought us the prospect of a Qatar World Cup in 2022 as racists (although in fairness, there is a lot of anti-Swiss feeling out there, bloody neutral bastards with their poor value cheese and their cuckoo clocks). Then announcing that he will stand for a fifth term as FIFA president despite having persuaded his rivals to stand down last time by positively promising that he wouldn’t do so. Now he has shown a degree of ambition that is not merely planetary but is actually genuinely galactic in scale. Sepp this week envisaged the World Cup being extended to include extra-terrestrial competitors - honestly, he did - and sure, why not, as long as the universal translator can be configured to encompass a coherent explanation of the offside rule.
If alien life did suddenly cross the vast emptiness of space and make itself known to us, though, do we really think that wondering whether we can absorb them into the qualifying process for the FIFA World Cup (perhaps via a playoff with the CONCACAF runner-up) will be at the top of their agenda? And what if they’ve got three legs? Eh? Have you thought about that, Sepp...?
The upside, as far as we are concerned, would be that we might get invited to take part in a counterpart competition on the surface of Mercury, where it is marginally cooler than it is in Qatar. And if aliens do fetch up, their battle squadrons hovering in menacing low orbit over every major city in the world (and also Doha), and the chilling message is broadcast on every frequency “Take Us To Your Leader!”, do we really want to send them to this bloke...?
Actually we should. They might eat the bastard. With their three mouths. By the way, in that clip, what is that dildo doing there? Not the booby-ogling one doing the little dance, the one on the podium...?
So England are in Miami to prepare for the extreme climatical conditions they will face in lovely Manaus (Roy Hodgson: “Everything should be all right as long as we don’t have to play in that awful Manaus”). Having watched other teams losing key players over the last few days (Falcao, Montolivo, Saborio, van der Vaart, Ribery, etc) it was inevitable that somebody would get crocked playing a warm-up game against some dirty South Americans, and equally inevitably it was the one player who looked in decent form, two Xs quiz question answer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And still nobody's done a metatarsal yet. Touch wood...
England fans everywhere moaned “Why oh why oh why couldn’t it have been Chris Smalling?” but the fact is the Man United squad player never got close enough to the opposition players for any of them to injure him. With the Ox’s World Cup in the balance it could be a change of holiday plans for another Old Trafford bench warmer, Tom Cleverly, who seems so much more adept at the celebrity part of being a celebrity footballer than he does at the football part. Still, at least Raheem Sterling can’t get injured in the Honduras game on Saturday, unless he slips over in a pool of someone else’s sweat.