Despite the whole of England skiving for an hour and a half, trying not to shout too boisterously at the internet stream as to not alert the boss of the patriotic but naughty antics, and on at least two occasions nearly suffering a collective stroke, no-one could argue that the unbearable drama was enjoyable and most certainly worth the sheer delight that bubbled inside at the end of the game, as we witnessed a refreshing, reassuring show of camaraderie, unity and raw passion from Fabio Capello and his team. All this and England have only just reached the knockout phase. The scenes that will occur across the country, the feelings that will emerge in our guts and the backing for the team that will augment even further should England continue to progress through the rounds of the knockout stages, will be almost unimaginable.
The fact England face the old enemy Germany in the next round will increase the inevitably monumental hype surrounding English chances of advancing further in the competition. Yet the reason this saliva-inducing encounter has come about is principally, and rather ironically, down to our friends from the United States of America. Landon Donovan’s strike in stoppage time meant his side finished top of Group C due to more goals scored than England, but despite being the larger achievement, it is wholly unlikely the same hysteria and World Cup fever being experienced here is infecting the Americans. From an English point of view the last-minute Donovan goal was a cruel, theatrical twist in the drama of the day, but from an American perspective it was a tournament-salvaging act of beauty.
The Round of 16 is now firmly at the forefront of English and German minds, but we must not forget, that despite suffering defeat to Germany last night, Ghana are also amongst the last 16 in this first World Cup on African turf. Furthermore, they are likely to be the only African representative to progress to the knockout stages, as the Ivory Coast has to rely on Brazil beating Portugal, as well as scoring a hat-full themselves against Korea DPR to have any glimmer of hope. That is rather sombre news for Africa as a whole, but a huge honour for the Ghanaians. The nature of their march to the next round was also amazingly thrilling.
The other game in Group D, Australia against Serbia, finished 2-1 to the Aussies, but had Serbia grabbed an equaliser (and they had one disallowed for offside), the story would have been thoroughly heartbreaking for the Black Stars as the Serbs would have advanced. That is how agonizing or wonderful the World Cup can be. For the Ghanaians yesterday it was wonderful, and the players and fans were not going to hide their elation. Flags waved in the Johannesburg breeze, players embraced each other joyously and fans coated in paint the colours of Ghana danced a dance of euphoria in the stands. The World Cup means so much to so many and is, at its best, pure theatre. Yesterday was a prime example of this and if it carries on in the same vein, football fans are in for a marvellous treat.