ENGLAND could still take on Brazil this summer, even if certain other opponents stand in the way for the moment.
A prospective England-Brazil final might still seem as laughable as, say, Diego Maradona’s whinges about handball or Dunga’s about persistent fouling.
Or a South African newspaper’s confused correspondent, who this week described Flower of Scotland as the Welsh national anthem.
Yet England and Brazil are already emerging as rivals in mopping up fervent home support from South Africans coming to terms with the Bafana Bafana’s early, if expected, exit.
Anecdotal evidence suggests Brazil have plenty of enthusiasm from stadium volunteers, hotel workers, drivers and South Africans on the streets.
Yet the hordes of supporters here from England are certainly being strongly bolstered by locals, whether prompted by family or historical ties, or passionate support for Premier League stars and sides.
Ex-England international Chris Powell, coaching Cape Town and Johannesburg youngsters for education-for-all campaign 1GOAL, told Metro: ‘The kids all love Premier League football over here.
‘You see everyone walking round in Premier League shirts before their own local teams’, which does seem a bit bizarre.
‘England does actually seem to be their second team, after Bafana Bafana, because English football is so hugely popular here. It could be a great asset.’
South African tourism officials, while not quite so wide-eyed, were among those cheering as not only England but also the USA squeaked through to the next round.
Both countries are among the best-represented and biggest-spending out here.
Locals with their eye on the takings could face a Sunday dilemma, though, since the Germans are also here in vast numbers and generously dipping into also-vast pockets – though Angela Merkel might not approve.
Bloemfontein, where England and Germany will resume their rivalry, seems to have had a premonition about the coming invasion while also nailing its colours to the mast.
Even as the hosts prepared to take on France on Tuesday, the only non-South African flags or customised vuvuzelas being hawked by street-traders were those bearing the St George’s cross.
Fans of the local football team, Bloemfontein Celtic, already enjoy a reputation for vociferous, steadfast support – despite their wealthy team being starved of actual honours for too long.
Hm, sounds familiar. The Free State city’s stadium, with its old-fashioned English-style grandstands, might also prove a comfier fit for players and fans than Rustenburg’s athletics track or the artier new surroundings of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
What better setting, then, for England to be inspired – especially if a pack of new recruits can help the ‘Three Lions’ roar?