Nick Harper on the long slow Sunday after the hectic Saturday...
The morning after the night before, and El Diario's World Cup hangover has taken hold. More accurately of course, given that England's game didn't finish until near 1am yesterday morning, it was the morning after the morning before, but that doesn't make any kind of sense. And besides, today is now Monday so it's actually the morning after the morning after the morning before, which is even more confusing. But you hopefully take our point.
However you cut it, on Day Four of the World Cup, we all woke up with a sense of dread. What we hoped had all been a terrible dream brought on by too much booze and too little sleep, turned out to be sadly true. England had been beaten by Italy in their first group game and are now in grave danger of exiting at the earliest opportunity. Ah b*gger. And balls.
"The Italian sob: Roy's brave Lions go down fighting," roared The Sun's front page, noting that England did at least give it a proper good go in Manaus. "Super Mario sinks Roy's boys," harrumphed the Sunday Express, falling back on the tried and trusted. And "Jungle Tumble" screamed the Daily Star Sunday, with a headline that sounds clever but doesn't actually mean very much.
Overall, the general consensus was that England had given a very decent account of themselves, particularly the boy Sterling, but had been let down by two episodes of slapstick defending and some rotten luck in front of goal.
Meanwhile, Italian daily La Repubblica took the moral high ground, claiming “England was not quite up to the Azzurri”. They suggested their boys had dominated the game and praised Cesare Prandelli's team for refusing to be "drawn into the vortex of a physical game which gave them the rhythm". Much the same angle the Daily Star Sunday took, if we're being honest.
The defeat threw up a number of key questions, most of them focused on the role of fallen idol Wayne Rooney. Should he have started? Was he best deployed wide on the left of a front three? Did he do enough to warrant a starting place in Thursday's squeaky bumhole game with Uruguay? Key questions that really have to be answered.
Oddly though, these weren't the key questions on England fans' minds during the Italy game. Because according to Google, the most Googled questions on Saturday were...
It seems that none of these Googlers thought to ask how Gary Lewin is getting on, or indeed to ask if there's any online footage showing the precise moment he spannered his ankle celebrating Daniel Sturridge's goal. All those BBC cameras on hand and yet absolutely no super slow-mo footage of the game's most notable incident? Bah.
Still, it wasn't all bad news. England played well and were more than worth a point, in El Diario's humble opinion at least. And given that Luis Suarez is clearly jiggered and Uruguay won't be able to cope with the searing pace and dancing feet of Diego Sterling in particular, well this group's not yet up.
And it was also a big positive that the widespread violence, that would apparently sweep England's towns and cities at the end of the game even if we'd won, proved largely unfounded. For this we can apparently thank Phil Neville, the BBC's expert summariser who performed his duties with all the charisma of a paper bag.
The Beeb's lazy assumption that they'd signed up another G. Neville was over within five seconds of Phil opening his mouth. And as the police later tweeted, "(we) will be playing recordings of Phil Neville all night to keep the streets all calm and sleepy." LOLZzzzz.
It doesn't even need that though. Saturday night/Sunday morning taught us that as long as every vital England game kicks off in the dead of night and finishes just as the sun's coming up, then booze-fuelled violence will be eradicated in a stroke. It's worth a shot.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world...
So what else happened on Day Four of this World Cup?
Well, we belatedly discovered that Ivory Coast came from behind to beat Japan in the lost game that (surely) nobody stayed up to watch. But that Japan scored the best goal of the tournament so far, if you exclude preposterous looping Dutch headers from miles out.
We learnt that in a single anecdote about the dangers of winding Emile Heskey up, Rio Ferdinand offered more insight into the professional game than Alan Shearer has managed in a decade with the BBC. Which obviously says far more about Shearer than it does about Ferdinand.
We learnt that when in Brazil, you can never have too many cardigans. Or at least Thierry Henry can't.
We learnt that thanks to the best use of the advantage rule by another referee who actually knew what he was doing, that the headline writers would be able to use 'Swiss Roll Over Ecuador' in today's papers.
We learnt more about how shabby Honduras are than how good France might be, and that FIFA's futuristic Goal Robots™ might need a reboot. And we learnt that before that game, someone had been spying on the French squad's training sessions in a drone. Ah, come down now Samir, we know it's you. And bring your girlfriend with you.
We also learnt that Lionel Messi now has more World Cup goals (2) than Gary Breen. Which is nice for him.