El World Cup Diario, Day 9: Costa Rica do England a huge favour
So much for Hope, then.
England are out of the World Cup, as you may have heard by now. And the only good thing to come from their pitiful exit was the fact that when The End arrived, it was mercifully swift.
Imagine how it could have played out. El Diario expected to wake up on Saturday morning to see the Queen puckering up to Mario Balotelli on every front page – her thanks for Italy beating Costa Rica and keeping England's hopes alive.
We then expected to spend the next few days listening to all the reasons why England can still do it, particularly with Wayne Rooney's two-yard poke home confirming his return to the very top of the game.
This would continue every day and night until next Tuesday, when Costa Rica would thoughtlessly piss on our fireworks and dance on our grave.
All our hopes would have been raised once again, only to be dashed in the cruellest way possible. So in a way it's lucky that Costa Rica snuffed out what ridiculous hope we had left by beating Italy in last night's tea-time game.
Los Tico's 1-0 win as good as confirmed they'll finish top of Group D, the Italians and Uruguay will play off for second place, and England will board the first plane home. In doing so, they saved us a lot more pain down the line, so we should all be very grateful.
The saddest thing in all of this is that El Diario still had genuine hope that it would go to the final game. We spent all of Day 9 dressed in a full Italian kit, eating pasta and plotting England's unlikely route to the final on July 13. Other less optimistic people preferred to spend the day doing other stuff, like seeking out scapegoats and pointing the finger.
So who was to blame for England's early exit?
Steven Gerrard, apparently. It was largely his fault. Respected Spanish paper AS refused to even rate the England captain's performance against Uruguay, so hopeless did they think he'd been. Stan Collymore suggested now might be the time for Gerrard to concentrate on prolonging his Liverpool career, a kind way of telling him to retire.
Many others agreed, even Gerrard himself. Asked before Friday's Costa Rica-Italy game if he would call it quits, Gerrard said: "It’s not the moment now."
Then there was a But. And then he added: "Let’s see what happens over the next four or five days and we’ll talk again." Oh what drama! That's that, then, he's finished.
Inevitably though, a good number of fingers have been pointed at the England manager, Mr Roy Hodgson, 66.
'Hodgson has to go after this new World Cup low,' slobbered at least one raging tabloid, but Mr Hodgson himself was unbowed. "I'm bitterly disappointed, of course," he said, "but I don't feel I need to resign. On the other hand, if the FA think I'm not the right man to do the job... "
The FA said FA for much of yesterday, which suggested that they either do think he's the right man for the job, or that they were working out if they could afford to pay Mr Hodgson off having had to stump up for that old Italian not all that long ago.
Eventually, England chairman Greg Dyke arrived with a bugle to deliver an official England statement. "We do not see any value in changing," he tooted, referring to the manager rather than a style of football that has seen England fail for almost half a century. "We think Roy has done a good job and... we hope to do better in the European Championships."
He hopes to do better, he said. To somehow improve on two games and two defeats. There's nothing like ambition, and some would say that's nothing like ambition.
So much for Hope, then.
Day 9's other business...
As discussed, Costa Rica beat a beneath-ordinary Italy 1-0 to snuff out England's hopes of qualifying. An impressive France rolled the Swiss, 5-2, to as good as reach the last 16, while Ecuador overcame Honduras in the late kick-off to keep their hopes of qualification alive.
And despite World Cup holders Spain being on the earliest possible flight home, coach Vicente del Bosque has received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Spanish Football Federation. “From top to bottom in the federation we are all behind Del Bosque,” said Jorge Pérez, Spain’s director of football. “If we have the best coach around, why would we change?”
We give him 10 days.
Elsewhere, if – or rather when – Roy Hodgson is removed from office, he'll be replaced by Gary Neville. “It’s a short price now for Hodgson to go," said a William Hill spokesman. “Neville has been the best backed of the current hopefuls if Roy departs. He’s been a revelation behind the microphone and we can only hope that should he answer his country’s call he will be similarly successful.”
A number of hollow-hearted Brazil fans with supposed mobility problems are likely to be investigated by the police after footage emerged of them leaping to their feet during the 3-1 over Croatia. Brazil's greatest investigators suspect some fans may have been posing as wheelchair users in order to get seats in the Sao Paulo Arena.
Manchester United employee Marouane Fellaini's goal frenzy against Algeria might have gone to his oversized head. The gangly midfielder has vowed to cut off his Afro if Belgium win the World Cup. "If we win the World Cup, I cut my hair off," he told Belgian website Sporza. "Am I sure? Yes, absolutely. We have a deal."
And in some urgent domestic news, World Cup villain Luis Suarez has just joined Barcelona for £52 million. Or Real Madrid for £68m. Or something like that. Apparently.