It's Not Just England In A Fine Mess...
If you're an England fan, with just over a week to go, you could be forgiven for having a touch of manic depression. We can't beat Belarus, then we win 3-1 after a tedious first half against Hungary.
Are England actually any good? Why does Peter Crouch look so much better than Michael Owen? Is Hargreaves even awake? Did Lampard just come on for the penalty and then go off again? It's exciting and worrying in equal measure.
But fear ye not. Every other country has got plenty to worry about as well.
This pre-tournament sphincter-tightening is all par for the course. Look at who we're going to play...
Paraguay are, according to the legend that is José Luis Chilavert, 'an old squad who will fail'. Nothing like a confidence boost before the big tournament is there. The defence are short-arses and the goalkeeper is a midget apparantly. Four of their best players are injured but they did draw 1-1 with Denmark recently, which is more than England could do of course, but could only scrape a 1-0 win against Georgia.
Sweden are also an ageing squad who are under-performing and rely entirely on that ever-so -Swedish-sounding Juve striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to score goals. Except he hasn't been. Freddy Ljungberg, ever-conscious of following trends, has an injured foot and is barely even training to try and protect it for the opening games. Their keeper Andreas Isaaksson has just hurt his knee. Imagine if that happened to us. We'd might as well just leave the goal empty. They just drew 0-0 with Finland and were so bad they were booed off. But at least they have the compensation of having lots of lovely women with that nice blonde pubic hair to play with instead.
Did you see Trinidad play a Wales Under-11s team? They looked like strangers who had just met in a park. They were destroyed by er...Rob Earnshaw. Gosh. And they played Russell Latapy, who is officially 78 years old. Now they've just been spanked 3-1 by Solvenia. Fine form, eh.
So we're in a group of old blokes, cripples, small men and lower-league no-hopers. We should fit in well. But things are no better for any of the major nations.
Over in Germany, Goleo the official German World Cup mascot has gone tits up - no surprise when you consider the dummkopfs behind the little stuffed lion paid FIFA £18 million just for the rights to make it. With business sense like that they should be running a Premiership club.
Oh yes that 'official fifa licenced' logo is really worth having isn't it? Just like the 'you-can't-forge-these' official holographic tags on the 'official' England shirts that are, as I type, being made in factories in Chinese cities for less than a penny per thousand.
The Germans are worried Michael Ballack isn't going to make it after he injuring himself carrying large sacks of Russian money home. They just beat Luxembourg 7-0 but that doesn't count because they're ranked only slightly higher than the Blind Boys of Alabama on the world football ladder. They took a 4-1 tanking in Italy in March, though any result involving Italy does make you stroke your chin and narrow your eyes a little these days. Uli Hoeness is quoted as saying, "I believe, like the rest of the country, that the national team is a catastrophe." And they just drew 2-2 with Japan after going 2-0 down as if to prove him right.
Their defence is apparently very rubbish. That'll be Jens Nowotny who is 32. I mean, what top nation would have a slow, aging defender in his 30's in their squad? Oh.
He'll partner Per Mertesacker, a man who is described by one German football expert as "seems to hate to tackle anyone". Just what you need in a centre-half. Robert Huth was so very bad even in the 7-0 win against Luxembourg that he's unlikely to start a game and has conveniently twisted something. His melon perhaps.
France are falling apart. Their moral- boosting get-together ended up with everyone pouting and going huffy. They all hate each other and Fabien Barthez insists on being worshiped as a God and rides around on a golden swan. Their manager Raymond Domenech is also mad. He likes amateur dramatics and believes in astrology. So it must be like having Russell Grant manage your country.
All their best players are in their 30s and slower than a stoned tortoise. They got a creaky 1-0 win against Mexico which did nothing to inspire anyone. And just when you thought it couldn't get worse they'll probably be playing the balletic bumbling Jean-Alain Boumsong. Hurrah! Free goals for everyone!
Down in Spain things are a bit better but they're fretting over their fritatas at having to rely on Raul to score the goals, and he's had a rubbish season at Real. They just drew 0-0 with Russia as if to prove how short of goals they are. And if you can't score goals it's dangerous to rely on the opposition scoring enough own goals to win you every game now, isn't it? Spain also have their reputation for being bottlers on the big stage to carry like a huge potato and red pepper tortilla on their backs. And their olive oil isn't as good as Italy's. Fact.
Argentina look strong as long as long as Juan Roman Riquelme gets his game-face on and Lionel Messi performs consistently, but he's got a thigh injury likely to keep him out of the opening game against Ivory Coast and would you like to be in a group with Les Éléphants and Holland and Serbia/Montenegro? That's an early exit waiting to happen. Lose that opening game and it could be bye-bye Argie football gods, hello men with permed long hair crying.
Ivory Coast could be good but couldn't beat Switzerland this weekend, drawing 1-1 and in qualifying they managed to lose to Burkina Faso, which is like England losing to the Isle of Wight. With the referees supposedly ready to clamp down on simulation and any tackle that involves using your legs, we can expect to see Mr Drogba and Mr Eboue sent off a few times and a few eight-man finishes.
Ghana are an outside bet but could do well if only their supporters were not so distracted by trying to place online orders for t-shirts from fantastic UK-based rock 'n' roll websites using credit card information stolen by their mates in Royal Mail sorting offices and who just don't seem to twig that they will never receive their 200 Zack de la Rocha t-shirts even if they are called Prince Ngongo and claim to live in the United Nations building in New York with Kofi Annan. They do have the player with the best name though. Step forward Razak Pimpong.
Italy have just been busy trying to stay out of jail. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon's World Cup preparation has involved being grilled like a wedge of mozarella on a slice of aubergine by the Italiano rozzers. How relaxed and focused are they going to be when an investigation into match-fixing and wide-spread corruption is rummidging around their privates and they can't even bank on a good payday at the bookies either.
They're relying on a 29-year-old striker, Luca Toni, who late in his career has had one good season. Francesco Totti is coming back from major surgery and Pip Inzaghi is offside. Already. Even if he's in bed. Or dead. A 1-1 draw with Switzerland was either a good bet or a bad result for them.
USA have Charlton new boy Cory (are all American men now called Cory?) Gibbs out with an injury and they just lost to mighty Morocco and just scraped a 1-0 win over Latvia. But the pressure's off them because only 48 Americans know they're even playing in a thing called the World Cup. I know because they all write to me and they're all ex-pats from Sunderland and Bolton who run vineyards, wineries and bars in California. Lucky buggers.
Portugal are so confident in their talent that they decided to have a rigorous test against Cape Verde Islands this weekend. They won 4-1 but considering the status of their where-are-they-on-the-map opponents (they're islands the size of Mark Vidukas head off he coast of Senegal in case you're interested), this was in effect, a defeat. Imagine if England played Alderney and only won 4-1. It'd be a national disgrace.
Ukraine are riddled with injuries and might even be without Andriy Shevchenko. Their manager says the mood in their camp is not good but it must be hard to be cheerful in the Ukraine at the best of times. Even during traditional pull-your-wife-with-a-tractor-and-win-some-cabbages week.
Holland just scraped a 1-0 win against Cameroon and it#s only a matter of time before they fall out with each other and someone is punched by Edgar Davids. Davids isn't in the squad of course but that won't stop him. Ruud is crying because Sir told him to pooh off and Arjen Robben continues to evolve into a brittle creature comprised entirely of glass and bone china tea cups.
And you might think Brazil are favourites but they've got two of the oldest full-backs in the tournament in Roberto Carlos and Cafu, whose collective age is 169. Ronaldo now looks like a man who works in a chip shop in Hartlepool called Big Chris and their only hope of getting him running at any speed is to starve him for a week and then drive burger vans at 60mph up and down the touchline. They're still deluded enough to think Roberto Carlos might score from a free kick just because he did once in 1968 and the entire squad are hanging onto Ronaldhino's headscarf thing, and even he was rubbish in the CL final.
They havent played a competetive game together since beating Uruguay in October and will play just one friendly against New Zealand before the tournament in order to give Ronaldo more time to eat wheelbarrows of feijoada and buckets of torta de banana.
They spend their time doing training sessions to crowds of 150,000 instead but they have a terrible defence. I mean, they would have chosen Roque Junior if he'd not been injured. That's how bad they are. And their goalkeeper Dida makes David James look calm and reliable. Adriano's private life is in disarray with stories of abandoned pregnant girlfriends in the press. He's playing so badly that TV show Controcampo suggested that it was because he spent so much time with prostitutes! Which as we all know can be exhausting, not least because of all the trips to the pox doctor you have to make afterwards. A career in the Premiership surely awaits the boy.
That being said they can probably beat Australia, Croatia and Japan with a zinc bucket on each foot and bag on their heads. Which would be an improvement for many of them, let's face it.
Some other countries like Angola, Togo and Nowheresville Island are also playing. But have already given up and just hope to get back home without being shot or having a large gourd inserted into them.
So you see England are no different to anyone else. Everyone is worried about not being good enough. Someone important is always injured. Pessimism always outweighs optimism and almost no country's fans thinks they'll win it except a few deluded drunks. There's no solution. Just get your brown trousers on now and keep taking the tablets..