Just quickly, a few pre-tournament predictions:
Winners: Brazil – dull Dunga took great pride in their joga benito-less triumph in 1994, and could repeat as coach what he achieved then as captain, with a robust and ruthlessly-efficient counter-attacking team. At least Kaka, Dani Alves and Maicon have class. The two old Gilbertos, both once of North London, look less understandable
Runners-up: Italy. Such a simple group means even they might struggle to make their archetypal slow start, so maybe they’ve just been getting it out of the way earlier in dispiriting pre-tournament friendlies. Not quite so ageing as expected (the sadly-going-going-long-gone Cannavaro aside), while the midfield has bite in De Rossi and craft in Montolivo. And they’ll be intent on resuming normal service against Spain.
Semi-finalists: Argentina, Ghana.
England’s prospects: Same old, same old quarter-final. Though, just to be original, having knocked out Germany in the second round.
Surprise packages: Well-organised but feisty Ghana, Marcelo Bielsa’s tactically-daring and flair-filled Chile.
Golden Boot winner: After the 2006 World Cup, for the first time, featured not a single hat-trick, how about Spain’s David Villa to hit two en route to the Golden Boot?
Non-superstar stars: Argentina’s Angel di Maria. Mexico’s Giovani dos Santos. Chile’s Matias Fernandez. New Zealand’s Chris James, also of Barnet. One of these, maybe not.
Miscellaneous: John Terry and/or Ashley Cole sent off. More English red cards, albeit a fair (or unfair) few flourished by Howard Webb. And unlike in 1966, North Korea to actually hold on for a draw against Portugal this time.