And a big hand to . . .

What was all that about? Hunter Davies on the hopes and hairstyles at the World Cup

The first thing I did, once it was all over, was rush to Sainsbury's in Cockermouth where I knew, just knew, there would be some excellent bargains. And so it was that I bought ten England inflatable hands, in pre-tested sturdy vinyl, reduced to only 5p each. Could be my Christmas presents sorted.

My second thought was - what was that all about? The World Cup, I mean?

Blond Ukrainians: Their team was full of them, yet I've been to Ukraine and never saw one.

Mexicans without moustaches: Another racial stereotype ruined.

Stereos still typeable: On the whole, the Latins did swagger, were more confident, skilful, while the north Europeans were lumpen, like England and Sweden, or, at their best, efficient like Germany.

Daft haircuts: Even Becks let us down, as he did in so many other ways. So the award has to go to Loco of Angola for his funny little quiff at the front. It made him look as if he was playing with sunspecs on his bonce.

Saucy commentary: "Lovely to see two strikers playing with each other." David Pleat on Germany during their semi with Italy.

Best team: I watched 57 games live and gave each team stars out of five for good play, skill, adventure. No one got a five-star performance. Germany got four stars three times, as did Argentina, followed by Italy two, France two, Brazil two, Mexico and Ghana one each.

Deserved winner: Italy performed well when it mattered, but in that final, there was little in it. If only England had performed well just once, they could have had a chance. Overall, looking back in my mind's eye, the Argies pleased me most.

National anthems: I loved them, especially seeing the Mexicans, arms across the tops of their chests.

Free-kicks: They were rubbish, on the whole, compared with Brazil of yesteryear. Corners, they were poor as well. And I don't remember any long throw-ins.

No new skills, movements or tricks, except when Ronaldo of Portugal, in the match against Germany, treated us to a double back-heel click - which went straight to a German.

No appalling mistakes: No goalie made a total howler. The worst human blemish, alas, was Zidane's head-butt and red card.

The experts got it wrong: No one predicted an Italy-France final. The four main footer pundits on the Sunday Times each made Brazil the winner - and none had France even in the semi-finals. The bookies also got it wrong, ditto Fifa, which in its rankings had France at eight and Italy at 13.

Players predicted to do great but didn't: Shevchenko, Ronaldinho, plus the whole of the England team.

Players rubbished for being oldies and past it: Zidane.

No ads on the shirts: Wasn't that refreshing. Now we'll be back to normal next season. Hide your eyes from the commercial glares.

Next season: We hope Sky TV will desist from praising our lads to the sky, "best for generations", "tra-la-la", "full of world-beaters".

New descriptions for next season: The Premier League - "best in England"; England team - "best in England", no let's say north of England, hold on, best in Cumbria, 'cos they have only one League club; Paul Robinson - "best goalie in Spurs team".

So why did you buy those stupid inflatable hands? I like to think it's a confirmation of hope and expectation, that despite everything life will go on, there'll always be an England and they could be handy when doing the washing-up.

Right, see yous next season.

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