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Fans and bubbles

England blew a 2-0 lead to draw in their World Cup qualifier vs. Austria on Saturday. On the heels of an unfortunate exit against Portugal in Euro 2004, the public mood seems to have turned against the team. In the Telegraph, Paul Hayward likens fan enthusiasm to something familiar to economists of late: a bubble.

House prices have started to dip at last and so has the public's unconditional support for the England football team. The previously unthinkable has happened twice in a week, and now the fever that took hold with David Beckham's last-breath free-kick against Greece three autumns ago has broken.

This was the sense we had in Vienna when England trudged off after surrendering a 2-0 lead against Austria. Historians may now identify the Age of Optimism as starting with Beckham's curler and ending with an Austrian's shot slipping under David James. After the France, Portugal and Austria setbacks, the flags are limp.

The odd thing is that Beckham's goal against Greece (in the qualifier for the 2002 World Cup) was a low probability event. And without it, England's hope of participating in the finals in Japan/Korea looked grim. The tide of enthusiasm turned on that kick.

Hayward has a point - popular feelings for teams ebb and flow in a manner well characterized by bubble psychology. More so than the economic analogy of house or stock prices, I must say.

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