Players escorted to private terminal away from media
England's beaten and beleaguered World Cup players made a sullen and silent dawn return to London on Tuesday, dodging waiting fans as the storm of criticism at their early exit continued.
Former captain David Beckham, ruled out of the tournament in South Africa by injury, led the squad off the plane after they arrived at Heathrow airport at around 5.20 am local time.
England were sent packing on Sunday when Germany trounced them 4-1 in Bloemfontein, their worst World Cup finals defeat.
There were few smiles as players, who had been among the tournament favourites but went out in the second round, were escorted to a private terminal away from the waiting media and without having to face any returning fans.
Image: England's assistant coach Stuart Pearce (left), general manager Franco Baldini, Frank Lampard (2nd from right) and Robert Green (right) wear a sullen look as the team bus leaves Rustenburg on Monday
English media mock 'football flops'
Few will have wanted to read Tuesday's headlines anyway, with the Sun making its feelings clear about the nation's "football flops" with a mock weather forecast on the front page after a weekend heatwave.
"Sunny outlook in many areas but depression over Heathrow as shower drifts in from South Africa," it declared.
With England's involvement in the tournament at an end, attention turned to the future of manager Fabio Capello.
The Italian, who said on Monday he wanted to stay on, has blamed fatigue after a long and intense Premier League season without a winter break for his players' poor showing.
"All of the English players arrived really tired at this competition," he said in Rustenburg. "I spoke to all our coaches and they all told me that in their physical and mental situation, they were not like the players that we know."
Image: England captain Steven Gerrard makes his way through airport security as the team leaves South Africa at O R Tambo airport in Johannesburg on Monday