Houghton's side arrived in England full of confidence after the best season in their short history, but they are less upbeat following defeats to Derbyshire and Warwickshire.
Houghton, the former Worcestershire coach, said: "We played almost schoolboy cricket, and we're so short of match practice. You can see that the boys are struggling for form. Up until Christmas we were playing good cricket - if the World Cup had started on January 1 you would have fancied us - but now we have some catching up to do."
Houghton's confidence is based partly on who his side faces. "In our pool we would expect to beat Kenya comfortably, we've beaten Sri Lanka and India 50 per cent of the time over the last 12 months, and our record against England is played six, won five," he said. "We've got a good enough side certainly to qualify for the Super Six. If we don't do that I'll be quite disappointed."
But, while Zimbabwe could be going into the game in better shape, they can still call on Eddo Brandes. The chicken farmer took four wickets to trigger a suprise win over England in the 1992 World Cup, while he took a hat-trick in Bulawayo two and a half years ago against the same opposition.
Those performances have helped Zimbabwe win five of their six limited- overs internationals with England and Houghton said: "He's beaten them on his own about four times and he's currently the fittest I have seen him - and that's when he performs well.
"But we've got such a combination of seamers there's no need for him to play in every game. With the exception of the genuine pace of Heath Streak, they're all about the pace of Stuart Lampitt."
Kenya are the minnows of Group A but caused the biggest surprise of the 1996 World Cup, beating the West Indies in the first round.Reuse content