England kiss Brazil goodbye but no smacker for Balotelli

Mario’s blank saves Queen’s blushes as Costa Rica send Roy’s boys home

Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica celebrates scoring what proved to be the winner against Italy in  their World Cup Group D match   at Arena Pernambuco  in Recife, Brazil, and thus ensured England’s elimination. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica celebrates scoring what proved to be the winner against Italy in their World Cup Group D match at Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, and thus ensured England’s elimination. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Sat, Jun 21, 2014, 01:00

The morning after the night before and while England had given up almost all hope, the Queen, no doubt, had her fingers and toes crossed ahead of the Italy v Costa Rica game knowing an Italian win and a Mario goal would keep Roy’s lads afloat and would earn her a smacker from the Balotelli man, as he requested if he netted against the Ricans.

Greater footballing feats have been achieved over the years, not least by Manuela Spinelli when she was translating Giovanni Trapattoni’s remarks for us. And who should turn up on RTÉ yesterday only the woman herself, leaving viewers flummoxed at first because while Tony O’Donoghue’s Cork accent is quite strong, you wouldn’t have thought we needed an interpreter to get the gist.

But no, Manuela had been called up for the Italian day that was in it, and she offered England and the Queen plenty of hope when she recalled one of Trap’s more famous declarations: “The ball is round, it can go either way”.

It can too, so while the odds still didn’t look great, Italy, surely, would beat Costa Rica, only leaving England needing Uruguay to lose to Italy and themselves to beat Costa Rica by two goals or possibly more.

Alan Hansen didn’t fill his BBC viewers with hope when he dissected England’s non-defending against Uruguay, thereby implying Wayne Rooney wasn’t the cause of every woe that befell the team. (Not a whole lot of chat about Stevie G, though, who was rumoured to be in Brazil the last couple of weeks).

Right then, Italy v Costa Rica, the Queen pursing her lips in anticipation.

Robbie Savage? You could say he’s kind of the anti-Phil Neville. When Costa Rica should have had a penalty? Robbie’s displeasure nigh on shattered the Waterford Crystal next door, and when they scored, the inhabitants of Mars were left asking ‘What the HELL was THAT?’

(“I’d honestly rather listen to vuvuzelas than Robbie Savage, ” said one chap on Twitter, possibly from Mars).

Any way, a fine goal it was too, although Robbie was more inclined to point the finger at the leaden-footedness of the Italian rearguard, suggesting Giorgio Chiellini, for one, looked like he was “towing a caravan”. Costa Rica managed what most of us reckoned was the ultimate mission impossible: They made Pirlo look mortal. The fella was granted barely enough time and space to breathe, never mind run the show. Who’d have thunk it?

Robbie noted that too, but he was considerably more energised by the referee’s vanishing spray.

“I could do with some of that for me trousers, I spilt red wine on me clean ones last night.”

Half-time and Gary Lineker, who was sporting an Italian shirt for the occasion, was ashed-faced, “as it stands: England are going home.”

A decidely off-day

Second half and Mario was having a decidedly off-day, so those smacker hopes were receding. His 10 team-mates weren’t faring much better, mind you, and England’s Brazilian holiday was reduced to just the three games.

“And they have a population of less than five million people,” said Bower of the victors, so that’s one excuse we can no longer employ.

“The World Cup would have been a better place with England in it,” said Rio Ferdinand in Rio, although, other than telly ratings, he didn’t explain exactly why.

Over on RTÉ later, Eamon Dunphy had put his dress back in the wardrobe, but was predictably kind to the vanquished - “The white shirts are empty, devoid of character or personality” - and other than a few “ha, ha, ha” looks in Kenny Cunningham’s direction, was equally kind enough not to mentiont he had also said “ha, ha, ha” when Kenny had forecast that England would fare well. Instead, farewell.

France? Allo, Allo.

And despite - almost uniquely - having a fancy for them from the start, Didi Hamman warned us before the game that “the Swiss are very German”, in discipline terms that is, so we anticipated a nul-nul. T’was like a rugby score in the end.

It’s true, the ball is round and it can go either way. It just didn’t go England or the Queen’s way, but rolled parfaitement for, you know, Le French.

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