There are people in the pubs. They thought it was all over. It isn't now until 1 July. Yes, Euro 2012 Ukraine-Poland is here, much to the dismay of non-football fans everywhere. However, never in the field of human sporting conflict has so little been expected by so many of so few. What am I talking about? If you're Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish look away now. If you don't like football and you thought it was all over until August, sorry.
You may hardly have noticed amid the hubbub of the Jubilee celebrations and the looming Olympics, but England and Ireland have qualified. This time, there is no "world in motion" or "football's coming home" to drive us crazy, no tabloid poster pullouts featuring Wayne Rooney against the cross of St George – possibly because he is banned for the first two group games and England may not get out of the group.
The Irish may prove to be the tournament dark horses. That is, as long as they learn how to keep the ball. Their failure to do so is their big problem - it's one of England's too. If that seems a truly basic requirement for success, it is.
The English, under their excellent, experienced and honourable manager Roy Hodgson, have rarely entered a tournament with less expectation weighing them down. Desperate optimists cling to this as a positive despite an abysmal track record at tournaments, an uninspiring team hit by injuries, a troubled build-up which saw Hodgson only just appointed and a "race row" schism between our two best centre-backs that saw (the wrong) one being left behind.
In short, it's been just like any other tournament build-up. So, bring on the German penalty shoot-out. Following Chelsea's example, perhaps we might even win one of those. Oops, there I go. Calm down, dear!Follow @stefanohat Reuse content