Page last updated at 20:50 GMT, Friday, 4 December 2009

England fans welcome South African World Cup draw

By Matt Prodger
BBC News

English football fans
Fans were confident the England team can beat their opponents

As England are drawn to face the USA, Algeria and Slovenia in the group stage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, fans in a north London pub breath a sigh of relief.

"The real spirit of football is not with the dignitaries in Cape Town - it's with the real fans that follow their team around the world."

The words were those of Mark Perryman, addressing more than 100 members of LondonEnglandFans as they prepared to watch the draw and find out which teams England would face.

So began a night of hope, excitement, and anxiety in a north London pub full of England fans - all of whom plan to travel to the 2010 World Cup.

Imagine the excitement and anticipation around a pile of unopened presents on Christmas morning. And imagine your fear at the prospect of unwrapping a pair of socks and a dodgy knitted jumper.

Gum boot dance
The gum boot dance before the draw drew applause from the fans

That was pretty much the atmosphere - fervent hope the England team would get a dream group, dread that it would be a stinker.

"We're sweating on where England will be playing, we're sweating on where England fans will be staying," Mark Perryman said.

The first applause of the night was for a group of dancers dressed in boots and overalls, here to demonstrate a traditional gumboot dance once performed by South Africa's miners living under apartheid.

But the first cheers were for the appearance on TV of David Beckham, as he bounded on to the stage for the draw.

'Group of death'

And then it began - first England opponent… USA. The announcement was met by a collective groan. Once derided and ridiculed, the USA is now a team to reckon with, many felt.

But as Algeria followed Slovenia, it was smiles all round.

Geoff York, a Eurostar train driver from Coulsdon in south London was relieved that England avoided what he considered to be the "group of death" - Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal.

"The USA is our only problem, but I know we'll beat them. It'll be a tight game," he said.

It would have been nice to get New Zealand, but I think the USA adds a little bit of glamour
Paul Baker

"I'm going to be booking flights in the next few days for my son and I. I'm desperate to get out there - I'm not going to watch it in my local pub in Coulsdon, it just won't be the same."

Geoff has been collecting his England caps, to make sure he gets tickets, including a trip to the Kazakhstan game in Almaty.

Others were equally pleased by the draw, predicting England's passage to the knock-out stages as group winners.

"It would have been nice to get New Zealand, but I think the USA adds a little bit of glamour," said Paul Baker. "They're a talented side, but the way England are playing under Cappello it won't be a problem."

Once the draw was made - and England's matches confirmed - the pressing issue on many minds was to get flights and hotels arranged before the predicted prices rises take hold.

Even so, everyone agreed it will still be an expensive World Cup.

Nobody was planning to let that stop them.

"It's going to be a fantastic World Cup. It's the first where you can see the Three Lions play on the pitch and the next day see three lions on safari," said Mark Perryman.

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The Independent The IoS World Cup countdown - 17 hrs ago
Sky News Buoyant Fans Enter World Cup Draw - 38 hrs ago
The Sun On top of the World - 42 hrs ago
Observer World Cup draw - as it happened | Barney Ronay - 47 hrs ago

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