I haven't felt this excited about a major international football tournament since, well, the last one. Anticipiation is growing, nerves are jangling and cash has changed hands with the bookmakers (more on that later) - and my team aren't even in it!!
I love the English flags flutterring everywhere, I love the office and pub chatter and I love the unifying nature of our beautiful game - didn't like being told to "fuck off back to your own country" this morning, but that's another story.
The World Cup, the big yin, football's finest tournament is now upon us and I think it's going to be a fucking cracker.
First up is my prediction that Brazil are going to win it - just can't see any other team doing them in. They have too many classy players, too many good defenders, too many good goalscorers and one of the best midfields around. Most of them now play in Europe throughout the year, so the old one about south Americans not winning in our continent will be banished this time round in my opinion.
And I think they'll be up against Argentina in the final - and what a final that could be.
What about England? They will stroll through that group, probably with a barrel-load of goals and all nine points. I think their toughest game is Paraguay tomorrow, with Santa Cruz probably proving the biggest threat. As for T&T? Anything less than a 4-0 win for England will be astonishing! Sweden have been utter rubbish in the run-up to the finals, but .... if Henrik Larsson and Ibrahimovic gel at all, then Terry and Ferdinand could be in trouble. Take Henrik's appearance in the Champions League final. He came on in the second half when Barca looked all out of ideas as to how to break down the Arsenal defence and turned the game completely. His movement off the ball is also astounding and that's where Ibrahimovic comes in to fill the space where the defender gets taken out by Larsson and leaves it open in the middle. Bottom line, though, is that Sweden are not in England's class.
England top the group, then, and probably take on Poland in the first knockout stage. Another one with a Celtic connection as attacking midfielder Zurawski has been one of the top players at Celtic Park this season. And there is also talk of this Polish side being in the same class as their predecessors in 1974 who took third place. So we shall see...
Do I want
England to win the World Cup? Of course not! Why not? Cos I think it'll be funny when they get knocked out, that's why! Simple really!
And, no, I don't hate England. For fuck sake, I've been to many England matches. In a past life, I worked for a cash-strapped newspaper as the sports editor so got to many football games, including internationals. But so cash-strapped was this newspaper that I had to pay my own expenses. So, Reidski gives up half his allocation of annual leave and paid his own way to Euro 2000 in Holland and Belgium following England. Yes, I was there when Portugal came from 2-0 down in Eindhoven to beat Keegan's boys 3-2. I jumped on the train from Brussels to Charleroi and saw, after nearly getting my head kicked in on a few occasions, Shearer score the goal against Germany. And I returned to the Belgian town a few days following that to laugh my head off when Romania scored a last-minute penalty. I was at Wembley for the last international match before it was demolished when Hamann scored that hilarious long-range effort that had Seaman wondering what the fuck happened.
But I digress ... where the fuck was I? Oh, yes, England ...
Peter Crouch should be in the team. In fact, he's first choice striker, cos Owen is not up to scratch at the moment.The big man is great with his feet and, if Cole and Lampard get forward enough, he'll knock plenty of balls down for them rushing in. But, out of those four players, I've mentioned two who could prove a problem for England in this tournament. As I say, Owen is short of match practice and needed more than a friendly against Jamaica to get him back into the swing of things. And Cole, I fear, is not the sort of player that he thinks he is. He is no Ronaldinho and, where the Brazilian can use his skill and pace to dribble round the best defenders in the world, I don't think Cole will have much success getting past some of the best defenders and midfielders in the world. Well, I don't remember him doing much in the Champions League - but please show me some proof if I'm talking shit! Gerrard plays too deep for England and won't make the same impact here as he does for Liverpool.
On the plus side, Beckham could prove to England's saviour yet again. His crosses are pretty much perfect, while at free-kicks from the wings and corners there is no-one better to get that ball onto Terry or Ferdinand's or Crouch's or Lampard's head.
Spain? Not good enough, simple as that.
France? Nah, boring as fuck.
Germany? You must be out of your fucking mind.
Italy? Mmmm, wouldn't rule them out.
Ivory Coast? Now wait a minute ... we're on to something here. Blinding in the African Nations Cup earlier this year before blowing it in the final against Egypt, methinks they might be the surprise in the semis along with the Czechs.
Holland? Horrible Orange bastards, hope they get fucked in the group stages.
Angola? It would be lovely if this nation - on the frontline in the fight against apartheid South Africa, bombed and occupied on occasions and one of the poorest in the world - could pick up a point or two.
Ukraine? Could give Spain a fright in the group.
Australia? Dirty bastards, so could break a few legs while causing a surprise or two.
Tunisia? No chance.
Saudi Arabia? Ditto.
Iran? Keith Flett and the SWP may be supporting them but while star striker Ali Dei says he's playing for the "Islamic state" then fuck 'em. But they will be good.
South Korea? They won't repeat the last four place from last time round.
Japan? Go, go, go Shinsuke Nakamura, we love you! (Did I mention that he plays for Celtic?)
Costa Rica? Hope they give the Germans a fright in one hours time, but not going to do much else!
Ecuador? I've got them in the office sweep, so they won't even score a fucking goal!
Croatia? Don't like them - and it's nothing to do with that long-haired hun up front.
Switzerland? Blessed are the cheesemakers cos they are doing nothing in this tournament.
Mexico? Who knows. Went unbeaten in about 20 games over the last couple of years and it would be good to see them finally do something on the big stage.
Ghana? Another who knows. Don't know enough about them to pass comment other than Essien will be good whoever he is up against.
Who have I missed out?
Oh, yes, Serbia & Montenegro? Tough as fuck group, in there with Holland, Ivory Coast and the Argies, so don't think they will get through. But whoever gets through that lot will be fucking good!
Anyway, that's my fucking lot - what a load of old shite that was!
* Barry Adamson