World Cup: Where were you 2pm Saturday?

As England's World Cup campaign kicked off against Paraguay in Frankfurt, thousands of Norfolk football fans flocked to pubs, clubs, bars, beaches and even cinemas to catch a glimpse of the big match action.

As England's World Cup campaign kicked off against Paraguay in Frankfurt, thousands of Norfolk football fans flocked to pubs, clubs, bars, beaches and even cinemas to catch a glimpse of the big match action.

And such was the clamour to see this game that the Evening News reporting team almost failed to get into Brannigans on Norwich's Riverside; a capacity of 1,040 meant dozens of fans were left out on the street for the start of England's bid to win their first World Cup in 40 years.

On the walk to Riverside you could not help but notice the eerie quiet of a city which, like cities and towns throughout the land, was watching the game in the pub or on the TV at home.

But instead of tumbleweed it was flags that fluttered in the wind; St George's flags hung out of windows, from cars, and on the backs of men, women, and children on their way to the big kick-off.

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Inside Brannigans it was nothing short of a cauldron; the heat outside in Norwich or at pitchside at the Commerzbank Arena was nothing compared to the red hot atmosphere inside the popular nightspot.

Most of the fans crammed into the TV-lined venue had waited four long years for this moment. In fact, the anticipation had been building ever since Ronaldinho lobbed the ball over a despairing David Seaman in the Land of the Rising Sun four years ago.

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It was now time to avenge that quarter-final defeat and emulate the achievements of Sir Alf Ramsay's England at a sun-kissed Wembley Stadium back in 1966.

As kick-off approached with the beer flowing, the temperature and decibel level rose with chants of “Enger-land Enger-land Engerl-and” and 'England till I die” reverberating around the place.

David Beckham and his team received a rapturous welcome as they took to the pitch, and the national anthem was sung with such gusto in the bar that it could have been heard in Frankfurt.

But if the anthems made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, then a little over four minutes later and the roof was just about ready to come off the place.

The ball nestled in the back of the Paraguay net following another special dead-ball delivery from Beckham and a beer fountain erupted covering everyone within 100 yards in lager lava. Who scored? It mattered not, apart perhaps from those who had money on John Terry, Peter Crouch, or David Beckham for the first goalscorer; great start.

Scenes of jubilation in Brannigans would have been repeated in pubs, clubs, and homes, throughout the city and across the country; they also celebrated jubilantly on the beach at Great Yarmouth, where the game was being shown on a big screen, and at the Odeon Cinema in Riverside where the match was being aired on an even bigger screen.

As England continued to press throughout the first half, so the pub continued to cheer them on in the hope of another goal to kill off the game.

But by the second half ecstasy had turned to anxiety as England, in typical fashion, failed to capitalise on their early advantage and allowed Paraguay back into the game. The South Americans continued to threaten and forced an increasingly nervous crowd at Brannigans to make ever-more regular visits to the toilet.

In fact the only thing to cheer about was occasional glimpses of our boy wonder Wayne Rooney who, with metatarsal now healed, will surely make his World Cup finals debut sooner rather than later.

But by the end, with Owen off; Downing on, Cole off; Harvgreaves on, it was relief that 1-0 was enough for all three points. The beer-soaked celebrations that greeted the final whistle were more about relief than jubilation. Job done… just; but that did not put off most fans who had watched the action at the pub.

Owen Bond, a transport manager from Hellesdon, who celebrated his 30th birthday by watching the game at Brannigans, said: “I thought it was a superb atmosphere in the pub. It was good to see England win to get us on the road to winning the World Cup.”

John Hipperson, 38, a sign writer from Hellesdon, said: “I thought it was a good atmosphere in the first half, but it was terrible in the second half; I thought we were going to draw it at the end. I'm pleased but not happy with it, not at all. I'm working away in London next week but will be back for the Sweden game.”

Justin Philo, 30, a sign writer from Drayton was at Brannigans with his partner Christy Ransom, 28. He said the atmosphere at the pub was good, but the performance was not so encouraging.

“I'm pleased with the win, but they need to improve greatly,” he said. “I'll be coming back next week to watch the Trinidad and Tobago game.”

Miss Ransom, an insurance broker, said: “It was really good; Beckham looked gorgeous as always, but I wish they had won more than 1-0.”

Lee Dewey, 27, from Norwich, was at the game with his friends but was disappointed the win was not as emphatic as it could have been.

“After going 1-0 up it was a bit disappointing we didn't go for the jugular,” he said. “If we perform like that against a good side like Argentina or Brazil we will get murdered. It should have been 3-0, 4-0, or 5-0.

“It was a brilliant atmosphere; we always come down for the games and since Euro 2004, when we were separated for some reason, they have never lost a game.”

Tim Hales, 24, a groundsman from Dussindale, said: “It was a great atmosphere. I'm pleased with the result, but the game could have been a bit better. But to be honest I would have taken a draw; you can't lose your first game. I'm well happy - very, very happy.”

Michael Rose, 38, from Wymondham, said he was pleased with the first-half performance but not with the way they almost let Paraguay back into the game, although he praised the venue for having “the best atmosphere in Norwich”.

Steve Chennery, 38, a builder from Barnham Broom, said: “I thought the first half was pretty good. It's a good start and makes a change to get a win first game.”

Andrew Debbage, 28, a mortgage adviser from Norwich, said: “It was a terrible game, but at least we won; three points on the way to the final.”

Marcus Macmillan, 29, from Norwich, said it was the result and not the performance that mattered at the end of the day.

As the fans spilled out onto the Riverside complex after the game the mood was good and no real hint of any trouble; after all the sun was shining and England had started their world cup with a win.

Have you got a World Cup story to share with Evening News readers? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772439 or e-mail

Peter Walsh

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