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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 June 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
A win enough to keep the pub happy
By James Clarke
BBC News, Birmingham

England fans (left to right) Jo Huson, Steve Green and Emma Barvin
Jo Huson (left) is still looking forward to England's victory parade
It may have been an own-goal but we still won - that seemed to be the majority view in The Hill, a flag-laden pub in Birmingham city centre.

England kicked off their 2006 World Cup campaign in Frankfurt, and while most fans would have loved to have been there, if you couldn't be in Germany what better place to watch the game than Frankfurt's twin town of Birmingham?

A queue had formed outside the pub before it opened its doors two hours ahead of kick-off and there were few people not dressed in red and white.

The bar staff - all decked out in England shirts - were kept busy, takings no doubt helped by the fact our boys' World Cup campaign was starting on a beautifully sunny Saturday.

Lapping up atmosphere

The streets outside were not deserted but were far emptier than Birmingham city centre usually would be on a Saturday afternoon.

Chat in the pub before kick-off ranged from "how many goals will England win by?" to "what haircut will David Beckham have?"

England flags flying outside The Hill pub in Birmingham city centre

Among those lapping up the atmosphere was Sam Coley, a New Zealander living in Birmingham, watching the game with his wife.

He said: "Although I'm still a hardened rugby fan, it's lovely to be in England, the home of football, and to see the whole country come together - it's a great celebration.

"If England won the World Cup, to say that we were here at this moment would be amazing.

"It's nice not to have to get up in the middle of the night to watch it, and I'm keen to see the Australians kicked out as soon as possible!"

As the match kicked off, John Motson's BBC commentary was drowned out by cheers and chants of "Ingerland".

Boos and oohs

But it didn't take long for the cheers to raise in volume significantly as England took the lead after just three minutes - Paraguay's captain Carlos Gamarra heading a free-kick from his England counterpart Beckham into his own net.

Cheers were followed by boos as Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch picked up yellow cards, oohs greeted the long-distance Frank Lampard shot that was tipped over the bar by Paraguay's substitute goalkeeper and Beckham's shot, narrowly wide from a free-kick just before half time, won applause.

Empty streets in Birmingham city centre while England played
Birmingham's streets were emptier than normal for a sunny Saturday

But not everyone in the pub had planned to be there.

A group of lads from nearby Tamworth had travelled into Birmingham to watch the game on the city centre's BBC big screen only to find Birmingham City Council's licensing laws prevented England matches being shown.

Their frantic search for a pub to watch the game in ended successfully at The Hill, but only after they had missed the first few minutes of the match - and England's goal.

Half time saw blasts of Vindaloo, Three Lions and World in Motion well received and there were more chants of "Ingerland".

There were fewer chances in the second half and with some of the punters dismayed at Michael Owen and Joe Cole being substituted, many of the half's biggest cheers accompanied a game of "keeping aloft the red and white inflatable football" - a game which your BBC correspondent is proud to admit he started.

'It was disgusting'

The final whistle confirmed England's win and brought more cheers but there were mixed opinions in the pub on how well England had played.

Steve "Snowy" Snowball - who has had the England flag painted on the back of his shaven head - had predicted a 3-0 win before kick-off and was not happy with 1-0.

"It was disgusting," he said.

England fans celebrate the winning goal
England's goal is celebrated with arms aloft

"We won't win the World Cup like that - it wasn't good enough and where was the midfield?

"Germany scored four goals and we are meant to be second favourites for the tournament behind Brazil.

"We need to be better than that."

But Jo Huson, watching the game with her friend Emma Barvin, was more confident.

"I think we should have more width, we should have pushed Ashley Cole and Joe Cole up the flanks a bit more.

"It was a little bit of a flat performance but I was confident throughout the match.

"I still think we'll win it - victory parade 9 July."

The playing of We Are The Champions as crowds filed out of the pub or back to the bar seemed a little premature, but one thing was for sure - the fans will be back for more of the same against Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday.






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