World Cup Semi-Finals – part 1

The Pumas are stalking the Springboks tomorrow, but tonight at the Stade de France in Paris, 8pm kick-off, France are preparing a warm welcome for familiar foes England. As with the quarterfinal against Australia, England played and beat France in the knockout stages of the previous World Cup – in the semi-finals. Coverage via the usual suspects offline – and online streaming video [in UK], there’s radio commentary at 5Live, and at least two text versions, BBC or the quirkier Guardian team. The RTÉ preview predicts that welcome will be too warm for England to cope with.. but, without futuring excessively, France have been known to come unstuck when under pressure in front of their home crowd.. 1st Half 18mins in. Fastest ever World Cup try to white. 25mins in Chabal comes on early for France. Half-Time England 5 – 6 France. Errors and penalties allowed France to get back into the game. 2nd Half 51mins in. Michalak joins in. 69mins in Dallaglio on for England. 74mins in. Wilkinson takes the penalty. 77mins in. And a drop-goal. Full-time England 14 – 9 France. Too tense to be a great game. But it was still a good game. And a great performance in the circumstances. Unbelievable after the 0 – 36 score-line against South Africa, but England are in the final. Last word goes to Eddie Butler

This is beyond analysis. At the end of a World Cup defined by warmth and surprise, this is an ascent into the absurd. After this, anything is possible.