We all agree: Sven is not magic, England are mediocre, Fergie did right to get shot of Beckham. So that's it then, over for another two years, until we go through it all again, same old heartbreaks. Many people probably did give up after England were humiliated, the fly-by-nights, the flag-wavers, thus missing a chance to watch sans stress and experience some new delights.
Such as all the Big Countries of Europe getting shafted. England, Germany, Spain and Italy have the main populations, big leagues, big television audiences, big wads, but each departed, early doors. Four smallish countries, with minor leagues and piddling monies, made it to the semis - the Czech Republic (10.2 million), Greece (10.6 million), Portugal (10.1 million) and Holland (16 million). Each has a population at most a quarter the size of any of the Big Four and, apart from Holland, each is usually seen as economically poor. So, well done to them all. What pleasure it must have given to their peoples.
Some appalling jokes. Gary Lineker's were the oldest: "Let's
not mock, Tudor" and "Alan, that's unusual for you to go Dutch".
I also heard "Heinz does give variety", "Czech mate" twice and "Clockwork Orange" three times, but Clive Tyldesley was quite neat pointing out before the Holland-Sweden quarter-final that we were watching oranges and lemons.
Some nice images which will stay with me 'til, oh, at least this evening. They include Luis Figo's fleshy pout, Wayne Rooney's joyful cartwheels, Greece's German manager going hysterical, Beckham's accusing stare at the piece of turf that had deliberately moved - so, of course, the missed penalty wasn't his fault. Will that be the end of Becks? Has the brand reached its sell-by date?
Things I won't miss include John Motson. He is all facts and no insight. Even worse than his empty laughter is his belief that he's become loveable. It's also time we de-pleated our reserves, of David Pleat, I mean. If he says "here we see" again, I will scream.
What do you think we're doing in front of the telly, Dave?
Also the ball, that silver thing. I never got used to it. Looked as if
it had been kicked over from an Algarve beach. Let's hope we get
back to proper balls next season. And I don't just mean Big Ron.
Best fun has been that every single newspaper expert got it wrong. They didn't even predict either of the two finalists. They mostly tipped France, followed by Italy, Spain, England. I've kept their names, and lists, oh yes, and will mock them next time I meet them. (OK, so I woz wrong, 'cos I tipped France to win, but I also said Portugal would do well.)
I did miss the exoticism of the World Cup, seeing players from far-flung places, different styles of play, facial features, bodies I didn't know from television. Europe has now become homogeneous, familiar, so it was good that Greece did well, introducing us to new names, new players.
Why did England play that last game in black armbands? Was it explained beforehand? Must have missed it. Then again, I read 20 newspapers on D-Day and still don't know what the "d" stands for.
On the whole, apart from England, it's been a huge success. Well organised, good crowds, huge TV audiences in all the countries, even the so-called minor ones. Football is clearly in a healthy state and greatly enjoyed. Unless you supported England . . .
It also showed, despite what some have said, that national teams still matter. It is true that over the past decade, playing for
your club, especially if you play for a Big Club, has become more
important, more meaningful than turning out for your country, which is often seen as a bore, a chore, an inconvenience, with some star players hardly bothering to get off their arse, climb
down from their wallet and put on their national shirt. But when
it's the finals of the world's two major tournaments, managers are still inspired, players try their best, show us the talents we know they have, are their fittest ever, fight to the very end, give us their all, let no one down, unless of course it's England . . .
OK, I take that back. Let's not finish on a sour note. Chin up, smile bravely, and see you next season.