Long-suffering fans stick with England to bitter end

The Rio Report

You dream for years, you travel thousands of kilometres, you spend a fortune - and then you end up watching your humiliated team play a totally meaningless World Cup game.

So how does it feel for fans of eliminated England gathering in Belo Horizonte for their last match on Tuesday?

"It's obviously not ideal, is it? But you just have to make the best of it, and have some fun," said Ade Brandwood, 38, from Manchester, with friends in the Brazilian city for England's dead rubber Group D match against Costa Rica.

With the 'Three Lions' out after defeats to Italy and Uruguay - the first time they have fallen at the first stage since 1958 - many English have sold tickets, gone to sample the sights of Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere, or simply returned home.

Yet thousands of the hardiest were still gathering in Belo Horizonte, and putting their bravest face on it.

"Why would you go home if you've come all this way? You're hardly going to be happier back in England right now, are you?" added Brandwood, who has had his fair share of disappointments attending England's last four World Cups.

"I've saved up for four years, I got permission to be away from the missus and the kids. I'm not going to let it get spoiled now," added the fan, who has tickets for other games and plans to enjoy the rest of the tournament even without England.

The English players have looked disconsolate in their press conferences and training appearances since Luis Suarez shattered their dreams with a stunning winning goal for Uruguay in Sao Paulo that meant curtains for their World Cup campaign.

The stoic fans, though, seem to be getting over it.

Even young Jack Thompson, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who had dreamed his 12th birthday on Tuesday would coincide with a glorious day for England, was not feeling down.

"I'm ok, it's all right, I'm still having a brilliant time," he said before heading out of his hotel for a day of sight-seeing in former mining town Belo Horizonte.

Manaus, in Brazil's Amazon region, was a particular high for English fans. Not the result there - England lost 2-1 to Italy - but the exotic wildlife nearby.

"It was incredible. I swam with pink dolphins. I climbed a tree to the top of the jungle. I fished a four-foot fish. And I saw a sloth, my favourite animal!" said Jack.

He and his dad Steve Thompson, 49, saw both England losses, the crushingly disappointing results at least offset by the fun they have been having on a father-and-son bonding tour.

"We're obviously disappointed with England but not devastated. It's not just about the football. We came to see Brazil and all the sights here," said Steve, who paid more than 4,000 pounds ($6,800) for the package in Brazil.

Though the results were worse than South Africa four years ago, England fans were relatively generous in their analysis of their team's more attacking performances in Brazil.

New young players like Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Ross Barkley had their moments, and even FIFA boss Sepp Blatter - a deeply unpopular figure in England - said they were unlucky.

"We really weren't that bad," said Frank Whitehead, 42, sitting on a park bench in Belo Horizonte, laughing with Costa Rica fans and recalling the fateful moment when the ball flicked off captain Steven Gerrard for Suarez's second goal.

"Gerrard should never have headed it. What was he thinking? Things might have been so different. Oh well, there's always next time."


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