England fans wake up to despair

Joy and despair - the twin emotions that link football fans across the world together.

By Nigel Pickover

Joy and despair - the twin emotions that link football fans across the world together.

That was the end of proceedings in Moscow last night after England went 1-0 up with a wonder strike from Wayne Rooney - only to be defeated after two late goals by a classy Russian team.

It was thrills until the 69th minute for England fans and then excitement and victory for more than 75,000 Russian fans.

More than 6,000 England fans had dared to believe that their team would qualify for the Euro 2008 Championships by beating Russia in Moscow.

Rooney's goals started them thinking about booking trips for next year's festival in Austria and Switzerland.

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But now only Israel can stop the Russian march to the final, which will leave England out of the tournament and manager Steve McClaren's position in jeopardy.

Worse still, for many of the England fans, is the likely qualification of old foes Scotland who are turning in some wonder performances in their qualifying group. Many England fans I spoke to were in despair and as a convoy of coaches left the hotels and airports Russian fans mocked the disconsolate England hoards.

Russian fans gave their team outstanding support during the match build-up and even when their team went 1-0 down. England fans were at the top of their game until the last 20 minutes, when silence dominated the away support.

Many England followers were bitterly disappointed that the England stars appeared to ignore them at the end of the match and walked straight to the tunnel.

One funny note on the night was the massed ranks of police and security personnel trying to keep the rival fans apart. Dozens of police dogs, Alsatians and Dalmatians, wanted to join in the fun every time the match ball flew over their heads.

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