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They dribbled while ladies had the ball

As the giants were busy saving points, players' wives were busy splashing out.

india Updated: Jul 06, 2006 20:05 IST

England may be out of the World Cup and coach Sven-Goran Eriksson out of a job, but at least his flamboyant girlfriend Nancy Dell'Orio did not return from Germany empty-handed.

The Italian played Mother Hen to the players' wives and girlfriends as they emptied the designer boutiques of the chic town of Baden-Baden where England were based.

The Garibaldi bar in the spa town has never seen anything like it - the other halves of players earning upwards of 100,000 pounds (144,000 euros) a week certainly know how to splash around the cash.

The champagne was flowing, and so were the photo opportunities for the former Posh Spice and wife of David, Victoria, who now seems content to just 'Spend It Like Beckham,' to paraphrase the film title.

But just as for their husbands and boyfriends, it all ended in tears for the England WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends) when their Portuguese counterparts jeered at them as they left the AufSchalke stadium following the quarter-final defeat in a penalty shootout.

Once back on home soil, Cheryl Tweedy, the soon-to-be-wife of defender Ashley Cole and a pop star herself in the Girls Aloud group, hit out at her glamorous rivals.

"It's like a comedy - everyone's so flash. It's like, 'Who's got the best watch on, who's got the best bag, which wife is dressed the best, which wife's got the best hair?" she said.

The partners of the Germany players showed rather more unity, sitting side by side at matches, creating a perfect pose for photographers.

They even abandoned their fashion sense to wear white vests emblazoned with "Germany" (in English) for some matches.

The stylish French were out in force for their partners' resurgence as the 1998 winners charged into the semi-finals.

Madame Veronique Zidane eschews the spotlight, but was seen laughing and joking with Madame Claire Henry, a Briton, in the good seats in Frankfurt at the quarterfinal victory over Brazil.

Italy are never to be outdone in the style stakes - and that includes their partners.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is married to Czech model Alena Seredova, who has faithfully worn an Italy jersey with her hubby's name on the back for matches, but has appeared regularly in the German press throughout the World Cup wearing considerably less.

Ilary Blasi, a model and the wife of midfield star Francesco Totti, said she wanted her husband back from national team duty so they can get on with extending their family.

She will have to wait a little longer - Italy are in the final on Sunday.