Summer of broken dreams and fingernails


Last updated at 22:55 29 December 2006

As part of his review of the year, ALAN FRASER remembers a World Cup most football fans would rather forget.

They left England better equipped and better prepared than any other team in the history of the World Cup.

My they looked fit, fit for action, fit for anything. The attention to detail had been that of a manicurist removing the tiniest cuticle and of a make-up artist applying the most delicate brush stroke to a face.

"We're not going home," they sang to the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown, as if to emphasise to supporters their unity and determination to go all the way. "I Will Survive," proved another popular ditty with a message.

The talk was of Stewart Downing and shot downing. stiletto wearing and stiletto wielding, manicures, pedicures and hangover cures.

So much for the "anorexics addicted to shopping with hollow lobotomised heads," as one Brazilian newpaper wrote of England's WAGs. Wives and girlfriends to anyone just back from Mars.

They sunbathed, they popped into their local spa and they shopped until they bopped.

They ate lobster and sushi and drank pink champagne. They danced on tables and on the sensibilities of the genteel people of the Black Forest. Nancy and her girls, Vanessa, Abigail, Cheryl, Coleen, Alex, Lisa, Michaela, Carly, Elen and, not forgetting, Victoria. Bless their matching Louis Vuitton hand luggage.

They certainly provided more entertainment then their husbands and boyfriends.

"A goal and a pile of vomit," El Pais, the leading Spanish newspaper, said of David Bekcham's contribution to the tournament. One goal more, it has to be said, than most of his team-mates.

England saved both their best and their worst for the end. A brave and spirited 10-man performance against Portugal completed by their customary competition exit.

In the classic recurring nightmare, an important player was sent off (Rooney) and penalties were missed. Safety in numbers guaranteed with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher all failing to score from the spot.

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