Two days ago someone neatly chalked the words "OMG Y IS ENGLAND ALWAYS RUBBISH IN FOOTIE?" on the pavement in front of my house. Was this question intended for me, I wondered, or was someone suddenly driven to put his despair into words as he passed? If it was the latter, well done for remembering to carry chalk.
If the England team are good at anything, it's lowering expectations. In the run-up to today's match I was prepared for another dismal showing, yet so much was riding on this single game – a nation's hopes and dreams, the uncertain future of my daily World Cup Diary, etc – that my hands were shaking as I worked my way through the Celebrations box I got for Father's Day. By the time my son arrived home from school I had disappointing news.
"Nothing left but Bountys," I said.
As the match began, the advertising hoardings in the stadium briefly flashed the message "Stay Alert, Stay Alive", which might as well have been directed at the England team, but was in fact advice from the South Africa Road Safety Board. Watching the nervy opening minutes, I began to ponder that chalk cri de coeur again. "OMG," I thought, "Y is England always rubbish in footie?" My answer was the same one I use for all football questions: I don't know.
"I like Johnson," said my wife. "Who does he play for?"
"I don't know," I said.
▶ As France's grimly satisfying exit from the World Cup became official, ITV unforgiveably cut away to an advert in the middle of the post-match argument between the French and South African coaches, after the former refused to shake the latter's hand. I've waited a fortnight to see some live off-the-ball unpleasantry (in HD as well), and now they're showing me . . . I've deliberately forgotten what the advert was for, as a punishment. They transmitted the altercation in full afterwards, but the moment had passed.
▶ Once England had secured its goal, I got to experience the unique lightheadedness that comes from attempting to will the score line to remain favourable for a full 67 minutes, while repeatedly forgetting to inhale. I didn't dare press the red button to check on the USA's progress, and I'm afraid that in my heart I had already sold my American loyalty, brokering a deal with Satan that would allow Slovenia to go through instead if they would just please lose this match.
Fortunately they did lose, and the USA went through anyway. That's Satan for you – he always knows what you really want. Or is that Santa?
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.