Yesterday I travelled to Gelsenkirchen one final time for the Portugal versus Mexico match, and was of course Enjoying the festivities of the English support the day before. Having just checked my emails now, I cannot believe the attention my report got.
On that account, I would first like to say that up until that moment and ever since, I thought the German police have been very accommodating and very leniant. In the same manner, virtually every single one of the English fans have provided England with a support they can be justifiably proud of. My only criticism is that when the moment came for either the English fans or the German police to step down in the heat of the moment, neither relented and a fairly small-scale skirmish occurred. The problem wasn´t the scale of the event, but rather the ease with which it happened.
There was certainly a different atmosphere that night and it always felt as if under provocation, either party could react in an instant. With the knockout stages around the corner and more than just pride to play for, nerves will be on more of an edge than ever before.
Having said that, the events of Tuesday were almost perfect. The Köln local authorities did themselves proud with the huge event they put on at Deutz at such short notice. Reports of over 100,000 English in Köln, a tenth of the city's population, didn´t seem even slightly exaggerated. The English fans celebrated en masse, creating an atmosphere as good as any stadium. Again the reluctance of a minority to comply with the police requests via an Amerian Compere highlighted the difficulty with which the German police may have to act. Not only were some fans defiant, they were flagrantly flouting the requests. Of course this was only a very minor issue, but the fact remains the patience of either party hasn´t been tested on a huge scale as of yet.
The celebrations were wild as Joe Cole unleashed a fantastic effort, and the promised rain never came on what appeared to be a perfect day as Steven Gerrard headed home shortly before time. Of course the voodoo of 38 years wasn´t about to be broken and England looked surprisingly weak at set pieces. Three unconvincing second halves have somehow put England into the second round with a good draw against Ecuador, but in Michael Owen´s absence it´s up to anyone else to become our goalscoring hero.