Headlines and horrible howlers
Not being a Twitter user, I have never tried to condense a point of view into 140 characters, but last weekend the Guardian headline-writers showed how to do it style in by summing up the reaction of England fans in just six characters.
"Idiot!" screamed their headline at Wayne Rooney following his red card against Montenegro.
Needless to say Wazza's England team-mates rallied round him in the interview area after the game in Podgorica, with reminders of Rooney's all-round brilliance in the qualifying campaign. There were, don't forget, the goals in Bulgaria and ... umm ... wait a minute ... well there were the goals in Bulgaria ... something against Switzerland and there must have been something pretty good against Wales.
Wayne Rooney suffered a rush of blood to the head against Montenegro. Photo: Getty
Of course you wouldn't expect Rooney's England team-mates to be openly critical of their most gifted colleague but TV viewers may have spotted one telling low-angle slow-motion replay of the incident, which showed captain John Terry in the background.
As Rooney's act of numbskull violence unfolded at a quarter speed, Terry's face ever so slowly betrayed his emotions. There was no rush to plead for clemency to the referee, no shock, no wince, no surprise even. There was just an eloquent glance which was echoed by the following morning's headline.
I can't help wondering if the England squad had been reminded by the manager before kick-off in Montenegro that a red card in the game would mean a ban in the Euro 2012 finals. Of course it is not an excuse if they hadn't - the players should know that that would be the case - but I bet some of the squad had not given it a thought. Sometimes the finer points of the regulations slip under the radar until it's too late.
Just ask South Africa. Last weekend also saw the final round of qualifying matches for the African Cup of Nations to be hosted jointly by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Remarkably, Nigeria, Cameroon and Egypt have all failed to make the final tournament; also out after Saturday's games are the 2010 World Cup hosts South Africa.
Playing in Nelspruit against Sierra Leone, South Africa knew they could still qualify, as long as Niger did not win in Egypt. As Niger were on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat against Egypt (in fact the Egyptian Olympic team - mainly players under 23 - was selected because the senior squad are in disgrace after their terrible campaign) South Africa knew that a win was required to book their place in the finals.
Actually scrub that. South Africa should have known that a win was required to book their place in the finals. The BBC website's excellent text service knew that that was the case. The only problem was that nobody told the South Africans. Instead Bafana Bafana defended a 0-0 scoreline in the mistaken belief that they would qualify on goal difference.
The tournament rules state that in the event of three teams finishing on level points then results in matches against each other would determine who qualified. South Africa discovered their mistake only after a lengthy lap of honour and after receiving the congratulations of their football association president Kirsten Nematandani.
Manager Pitso Mosimane later admitted he had no idea of the regulations and assumed their superior goal difference was the deciding factor. Instead, Niger have reached the finals next year pending an appeal from the South African FA which I very much hope will be treated with the disdain it deserves.
The South African footballers' embarrassment will almost certainly have been knocked off the back pages of their newspapers by the Springboks' defeat to Australia in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup - and for that they should be very grateful.
"Idiot" doesn't quite do it justice.