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Saturday, 8 June, 2002, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
England's transport of delight
Trevor Sinclair takes a flying tumble against Argentina.
Superman? No it's super-sub Trevor Sinclair

There was an ironic little anecdote from Trevor Sinclair at a news conference some 20 hours after Pierluigi Collina had blown the whistle on England's 1-0 defeat of Argentina.

"I got on the wrong bus afterwards," he told the assembled media throng back at England's Awaji Island base .

Ears pricked up. Maybe we were about to hear of another incident with which to prolong the media's obsession with English/Argentine rivalry?

But if the headlines shriek "Trev Braves Argie Coach Abuse", or "Gotcha! Supersub Trevor Sinks Argie Pride", then it seems you've been misled.

Trevor Sinclair reveals his bus-boarding faux pas at a media conference.
"Does this bus go to Awaji Island? Oops, sorry."
Sinclair was neither abused nor abusive. Instead, he quickly realised his mistake and - apologetically - got off the bus again.

"But what was the atmosphere amongst the Argentine players like Trevor?" he was asked.

"Well, rather quiet really."

I dare say it was. And I can vouch that five hours or so earlier it had been anything but at the Sapporo Stadium.

The teams' route into the arena takes their buses around the back of the TV compound where, with 90 minutes to go before kick-off on Friday, journalists were still scrambling for match tickets.

Isolated and scared

But we all looked up as the police outriders first led England into the stadium.

As an Englishman, it was a depressing sight, only confirming pessimism about the team's prospects.

The players were staring out of the window, apparently alone - maybe isolated - in their own thoughts. Frankly, they looked scared.

Five minutes later came the Argentine coach.

As the bus passed behind the fence, the players were clearly visible, singing, clapping and waving scarves and flags from the window.

"We're a goal down already" said a colleague, and it was hard to disagree.

David Beckham is sent off during England's 1998 World Cup loss to Argentina.
Beckham exorcised his St Etienne demons
But how wrong could we have been - especially about England?

Sven Goran Eriksson followed Trevor Sinclair into the news conference to describe a dressing room atmosphere in which determination and concentration had a hold.

For all their togetherness, the Argentinian team had clearly been making premature assumptions.

Sinclair, of course, was not in St Etienne four years ago when the Argentine players took triumphalist pleasure in the penalty shoot-out win that had followed the dismissal of David Beckham.

Their insults and gestures would have been inappropriate even if they'd won 5-0.

So those England players who were in St Etienne - Beckham especially - will have naturally taken their own deeper satisfactions from the Sapporo result.

There's been a quiet dignity from England in their win. The tone set of course by Mr Eriksson but happily taken up, for example, by Sinclair.

And a final thought.

First France, then Argentina, now Italy beaten. Could that silent, thoughtful coach be driving England all the way?


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GROUP F
  P GD PTS
SWEDEN 3 +1 5
ENGLAND 3 +1 5
ARGENTINA 3 0 4
NIGERIA 3 -2 1




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