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Saturday, 22 June, 2002, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK

Tears of despair

By Phil McNulty
BBC Sport Online's man in Japan reflects on England's World Cup exit

England's World Cup campaign ended - as it did all those years ago in Italia 90 - in tears.

In Italy, it was the tears of a young man with the world at his feet, the fledgling Paul Gascoigne who had stamped his gloriously individual mark all over the tournament.

In faraway Japan, the tears came from the veteran David Seaman, who knew it was his last chance of World Cup glory and it had slipped, quite literally, through his fingers.

And from a man who knew he would now be remembered for allowing Ronaldinho's speculative free-kick sail over his head while he pedalled backwards in a panic-stricken and helpless state.

Seaman cut a devastated figure as he met the media, facing those he knew would stand in judgement on his error.

The Arsenal goalkeeper's reluctance to face the media has become something of a running joke throughout the tournament - the request politely made and the request politely declined.

So it was interesting that Seaman chose to bare his soul, or at least attempt to, before breaking down in tears.

Seaman's own devastation was mirrored in the eyes of men like Michael Owen, his only consolation coming with the knowledge that his time will come again.

For England, there was the disappointment of knowing they had glory within their grasp and let it slip.

In the end, England were not good enough to beat Brazil - not a crime and not a cause for condemnation, simply a fact of football life.

Brazil had too many tricks up their sleeve for England, too much greatness in their team.

England talked about power and pace, but one sentence from Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari summed up why he is plotting for a semi-final and Sven-Goran Eriksson has flown home.

He said: "England may have pace - but no-one can run quicker than the ball."

A brilliantly simple assessment of why Brazil won and England lost. England can learn vital lessons from this World Cup - and take hope for the future.

Rio Ferdinand will be a world-class fixture in their defence for years to come, and the spine of midfield and attack is already in place with Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen.

Gerrard's absence has been brilliantly covered by Nicky Butt, but at times against Brazil, England would have loved to have had his telepathic relationship with Owen.

Eriksson will take stock before the 2004 European Championship campaign, but once he cuts through the disappointment of the World Cup, he should move forward with optimism and confidence.

England's campaign came up short - but they were not alone in that.

For Seaman, the end was a bitter and tearful one made worse by the knowledge he will not be back. England, however, will.


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