Zany countdown to England-Brazil clash

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> England counted down Thursday to its team's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil and things were getting crazier by the minute.

Updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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England counted down Thursday to its team's World Cup quarterfinal against Brazil and things were getting crazier by the minute. From David Beckham and Ronaldo lookalikes playing table soccer on the banks of the River Thames to a guy in a Brazilian shirt bouncing a ball continuously on his head on a beach near Portsmouth, everybody seemed to be caught up in World Cup fever. Judges cancelled Friday morning sittings and Prime Minister Tony Blair rearranged meetings at a European summit in Spain in order to watch the game. Economists estimated that about 1 billion pounds could be lost in productivity on Friday, and 4 million people were expected to be late for work. Rail companies said they would run extra-long early morning trains to ensure office staff were in London in time to see the match. Employers were under pressure from the country's union leaders to give workers ample time to watch the match, saying that if England won employees would go into work with a "spring in their step". They didn't say what would happen if England lost. More than 30 million people are expected to tune into the telecast of the match from Shizuoka, Japan. Pubs and cafes, which are expected to host about 5 million viewers, prepared for the onslaught of early customers. About 300 members of the British armed forces stationed at Bagram air base in Afghanistan will watch the game on two large screens, defence officials said. In London's Trafalgar Square, a foreign exchange company is setting up a 32-metre square screen under the gaze of Lord Nelson, Britain's greatest naval hero, where thousands are expected to gather. Opera singers are scheduled to belt out the national anthem and a rendition of "One Fine Day" from Puccini's Madame Butterfly before the match begins. Britain's petty criminals are expected to stop mugging, shoplifting and breaking into homes during the match, police say. Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth said the number of calls to police had fallen during England's previous matches in the tournament. "If past experience is anything to go by the answer is absolutely yes, our demand level goes down during the games,'' he said. "Calls go down to hardly anything''. Englishman Gareth Godwin and his Brazilian fiancee will have it tougher than most on Friday, their wedding day. Hours before their scheduled nuptials, Godwin will sit with his ushers in his friend's garage cheering England on! Three doors down the street, Sao Paolo-born Paula McGrory, who was adopted and came to England when she was three, will watch the match with her bridesmaids and flower girl. The wedding date was set more than a year ago. "I suppose a draw would be the best result," Godwin said. "But that can't happen. I'm sure whatever the result we will still have a great wedding". The red-and-white England flag of St. George was flying everywhere in central London on Thursday. One man even had the Three Lions symbol from the flag drilled into the two front teeth of his dentures. British agency Ladbrokes said today it had received a bet of 100,000 pounds on England to win the World Cup, claiming it is the biggest amount ever wagered for England to win anything. With Ladbrokes offering odds of 7-2, the Brit stands to win 450,000 pounds. (AP)

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