A few reasons not to despair if you're an England fan
If England do get stuffed by Germany on Saturday evening, then please do not despair, please do not adjust your set, refrain from rearranging your partner's front teeth. There will still be lots and lots to look forward to.
History suggests that Germany will win, because they always have done, however poor the German team are supposed to be, however much they are said to be arguing among themselves. Even if the German team all trooped out with Zimmer frames or got pushed on in bath chairs, they'd probably still win - on penalties.
All the same, there are things to take pride in, to make the little Anglo hearts swell with pride. Have you noticed that, when there's a substitution, you can clearly hear the announcer, whether in Belgium or Holland, speaking in English? Even when England are not playing, they still give it out in English. Sends a little shiver through every true patriot, dunnit. (Innit is out, by the way. Far too overused.) And that music they play at the beginning, "We Will Rock You". Sung in English. Another triumph. And you must have spotted the first mobile phone being used at any game - in the English crowd. Huzzah for us.
Then there's Graham Poll and Hugh Dallas, world-beaters both of them. When England depart, sooner rather than soon, one of them will surely be carrying the flag for England as referee in the final. OK, so Dallas is Scottish. But, as we all know, when England get knocked out, we'll willingly settle for anyone or anything English, or even remotely connected with Britain, or even with a British third cousin twice removed.
France will become our best-supported country. Half of their team plays, has played or will play in England - Barthez, Desailly, Anelka, Henry, Deschamps, Petit and Viera. Really, if you think about it, they play in red, white and blue, we pay most of their wages - so come on, if France wins, it's Allez Les Lads.
Even your French fan on the terraces must agree that Anelka, Viera, Petit and Henry all improved by coming to Arsenal. Frogs turned into princes. And we dunnit. (I expect this trend to end with Barthez. I predict that, in a year's time, Fergie will be looking for yet another new foreign goalie, or asking Schmeichel to get into his bath chair and whiz over quick.)
Carrying the flag for England, whatever happens over the next week, will be blokes carrying an English flag. Too drunk to find their way out of the stadium, too exhausted to find their way to the railway station, too stupid in the police station. There will be scores of them left behind when England go. I'll be looking out for them. I bet that bloke who's been waving his Crystal Palace banner at the Turkey v Italy game, or was it Holland v Czech Republic, anyway, his presence didn't make sense at either match, I'm sure he'll stick it out to the end.
The highlights for me so far have included Alan Hansen's new short haircut and the BBC team generally. I do love their new studio, made specially for Euro 2000 from an old Meccano set. The funny grey table thing that looks like an amoeba was last seen at the Festival of Britain in 1951 when it was ever so modern. And, like an amoeba, it changes shape all the time. If only Kevin Keegan could do the same for the England team.
The lowlight has been ITV. I'm in Lakeland and our local station is Border. I don't know whether it's Border's fault or my telly, but, in every match, there's about three inches at the top of the screen that looks like barbed wire doing a St Vitus's dance. I now put a scarf over the top of the screen to try to hide it, but I'm still aware of it. Having to put up with that, and England's performance against Portugal, I'm sure I could sue for mental and physical stress.
Television coverage generally is inferior to our normal English standards. See, we can do anything well. They don't have enough close-ups, long shots are fuzzy, replays of excitement are slow to appear. I assume the main director and camera people are either Dutch or Belgian. As for "Cisco Systems", what's that? It appears across the screen on both ITV and BBC whenever there's a time-check, and is totally unnecessary as we all know the time, or can work it out from the top left corner. Is Cisco some European sponsor, or an American cowboy?
Football-wise, it's been interesting to see how goalkeepers adapt to the new rule that enables them to hold the ball for six seconds as opposed to six steps. It means they now suddenly dash forward like a startled cow. Heh up, I thought, when I first saw Barthez doing it, has old Fabien got the runs?
France have been excellent so far, no question. Holland disappointing. Italy will get better. As for England, I'm still trying not to think about them. How could they be so un-English?
I was terribly un-English in those first 20 minutes when they were two up against Portugal. I went rushing round the house, shouting upstairs to my wife and out of the windows to the sheep in the field. But, by the end of that second half, I was hiding behind cushions. I never thought I'd live to see an England team with their heads down. Don't mention it again. At least we punters know to keep our heads up.
So I'm looking ahead to the rest of the games being pretty much as before - fast and frantic, athletic rather than aesthetic, with lots of mistakes, balls being given away cheaply, few flowing moments. In fact, what does it remind you of? Our own dear Premiership.
There, that's another reason not to give up watching when England go out. Just shut your eyes and think of, well, England . . .