God bless America

England fan expresses eternal gratitude to USA for finishing above his team and setting up match against Germany.

    Let me say right from the start that this is not going to be an article in favour of the political entity of the United States of America.

    On that score, I'm somewhat on the fence. I applaud their policy of bouncy pop-music videos, and deplore their policy on pan-global warfare.

    What I do want to do is express my utter gratitude and admiration for their football team.

    Landon Donovan's late strike against Algeria on Wednesday means Team USA finished top of Group C ahead of my own team, England.

    Thank you, thank you, and thrice thank you!

    Now, my second round ticket in Bloemfontein on Sunday is not for a dreary tie between the USA and Germany. It's England-Germany!

    In Port Elizabeth yesterday, I thought I was going to be present to see our World Cup hopes dashed against Slovenia. Instead, they will be dashed by the old enemy. The joy!

    Matches between England and Germany are laden with emotion.

    For Germany, the emotion is usually one of quiet contentment as they reflect on innumerous previous victories and look forward to another one.

    England have it more complicated. Surging hope, clawing fear, burning revenge, painful memory. Some also seem to think it has something to do with the Second World War.

    Of course, we can point to our great World Cup final victory against West Germany in 1966.

    Proud moment

    To this day, I remember Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy as a proud moment that happened 14 years before I was born.

    Since then it's been a tale of sorrow for our plucky lads.

    In 1970 we were 2-0 up, took off Bobby Charlton and let Franz Beckenbauer rampage to a 3-2 win.

    In 1990 we went out of the semi-final courtesy of a ridiculously-deflected free kick and penalty shootout misses from Chris Waddle and Stuart Pearce.

    Six years later, Paul Gascoigne hesitated on an open goal that would have eliminated Germany and put us into the Euro 1996 final.

    The only glimpse of joy is that we beat them 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier in Munich nine years ago. Hopefully we can continue that red-hot form into this match.

    Back to yesterday's game in Port Elizabeth.

    I realised I should have been enjoying myself as I sat in the brilliant Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium watching our 1-0 win.

    This was the World Cup and I was watching England. I should have been ecstatic.

    Granted, I had several vuvuzelas blaring directly into my ears. But I could always block them out by going deaf.

    But no, the problem is this. I hate sitting down to watch football.

    The more a stadium is trumpeted as modern, comfortable, family-friendly, the more I'm likely to reconsider my entrance fee.

    Amusing insults

    Stick me at a match in the middle of a crowd standing on a windswept terrace, bundling forward with every goal, shouting amusing insults at the players, and I wouldn't be anywhere else in the world.

    Put me in an assigned seat amid a sea of mute neutrals, staring jealously at the hardcore support singing their hearts out two blocks away, and I'm a picture of misery.

    I've never liked football for the convenience of a comfortable viewing station. That's what TV is for.

    Football matches must be safe, of course. And the right people have decided that they can only be safe in soulless all-seaters.

    That's just reality.

    But they can't make me like it.

    At my dream match at the Free State Stadium on Sunday, expect me to be wishing I was miles and miles and years and years away – at Springfield Park for Wigan Athletic vs Hull City in 1996.

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