It’s the semi-final of the 2018 Fifa World Cup™, and it’s Germany vs. England. After a thrilling contest that involved a bust-up between Gundogan and Henderson, a perfectly good goal by Draxler that was disallowed despite the use of VAR and Marcus Rashford nutmegging Mats Hummels, it’s finished a draw and gone to penalties. Germany have won the toss and are kicking first. They’ve duly plugged all five - Pickford got a hand to Werner’s, but he couldn’t keep it out. Plucky old England have matched them on the first four - Stones (bottom-right), Welbeck (Panenka), Kane (blasted in off the bar) and Loftus-Cheek (another Panenka), Lions the lot of them. But now it’s crunch time. A sharp intake of breath from every member of the playing and coaching staff. They know that if they miss this one, their Jules Rimet will remain gleaming and the Years Of Hurt counter they have hanging in the toilets at the FA will have to wait four more years before it is reset.
Up steps Raheem Sterling, the man above all other men that some would love to see fail. He’s got some chutzpah, after all the pre-tournament gripes, to put himself on the line like this. In a sense he's already won, though in a more real sense he very much hasn't. Manuel Neuer, the first goalkeeper to play with a broom, spits on his gloves and paces his line, eyeballing Raheem the whole time. Raheem just stares at the ball, trying to figure out which of the Adidas Telstar 18’s thermally-bonded panels will connect most truly with the laces of his garish boots. Gareth Southgate - a man who knows a thing or two about missing penalties in semi-finals against Germany - stands, face drawn, on the halfway-line, his arm around Stuart Pearce who is there for some reason.
Back home you could hear a Pimms drop. A statue of Horatio Nelson gains sentience and raises its sword to the sky. Pints hover in mid-air. Big Ben ceases to chime. England expects…
… as the credits begin to roll, bringing the curtain down on the England men's team's biggest game for a generation, an orchestral rendering of something from Embrace’s top 5 album Love Is A Basic Need is piped into a million living rooms.
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- Love Is A Basic Need (Orchestral) by Embrace
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