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Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 19:39 GMT 20:39 UK
No party-poopers here
By BBC Sport Online's man in the Low Countries Pete Lansley.
There was a breezy yet laid-back atmosphere in Brussels and Bruges during the quarter-finals as many supporters from non-competing countries rolled up for games they had never dared dream of attending.
Even the pessimistic Dutch took over the Markt in Bruges on Sunday, having envisaged their team would finish second to France in the group stages and so be relocated down south.
But for the English, the Danes and the Belgians, there was consolation in still being there for the party.
A gang of Belgians from near Brussels arrived, without tickets for the France versus Spain game, for a mass game of keepie-uppie.
"Anyone as long as it's not Holland," was the consensus.
Over at the top end of the square, as the mid-morning beers flowed, the orange party was in full swing.
Ajax fan Tristan Rohner, 18, from Purmerend near Amsterdam, was among a group of salesmen from Deen supermarket who was fully sold on the prospect of France v Spain - despite the fact he would have to settle for watching Holland v Yugoslavia from the bar.
"We won the tickets for having the best advertising figures at Deen," he explained.
"We only got the tickets two weeks ago and then we had thought the Netherlands would finish second in Group D by losing to France. We thought we would see a lovely game here in a lovely city.
On Saturday evening in Brussels, England supporters milked the becalmed atmosphere with ambivalent feelings towards their own team's non-involvement.
Nigel from Manchester said: "We felt pretty sick on Tuesday night after we'd had it in our grasp [looking set to qualify by avoiding defeat against Romania].
"But there's also a slight sense of relief. We can walk to the ground without any bother.
"The enthusiasm back home has died off dramatically. People are asking us why we're coming out but we were always going to, irrespective of England. We were never tempted to sell our tickets on."
Ian said: "We're disappointed it's not England involved tonight but not surprised. I was never going to sell my ticket - I'm half Italian so this is a bit of a result for me. Takes the dilemma out of the game."
Another Italian fan was the Austrian Hans who lives in Milan and wears his Inter shirt with pride. "I bought my ticket thinking of Italy v England - this is not the show I was expecting.
"Your side [England] is great but I'm glad I didn't get a fist in my nose today."
Carmelo, born in Calabria but a West Brom fan living in Wolverhampton, sported the best-painted glasses of the tournament.
He reckoned: "I was always here to watch Italy and I intend to follow them through to the final. I never supported England anyway."
"We have stayed here for three weeks and hoped we could see Denmark in the quarter-finals. We got the tickets six months ago but we are here for the fun, for the beer and for the girls."
And have they found what they wanted? "Yes - the beer is good."
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