However Fabio Capello's England fare next summer, some area of the country is likely to be celebrating a World Cup victory: English-based players will far outstrip those from any nation, with between 110 and 160 in contention for places.
England has been the undisputed melting pot of the global game for more than a decade, and if the 32 squads in South Africa are composed along the same lines as for last month's qualifiers and friendlies, then 114 English-based players will be involved in the tournament, including England's players.
If every single English-based foreign player who has been called up for international duty in the past two years, from Liverpool's Javier Mascherano, the captain of Argentina, to Rory Fallon at Championship side Plymouth Argyle, is picked for World Cup action, then 159 players from these shores will be heading south.
That first scenario (114 players) is most likely, but even if the tally is "only" 100, it will be enough to keep England in the No 1 spot as a supplier of players. At the World Cup in 2006, English clubs provided 102 of the 736 players involved (13.9 per cent). The next most prolific provider was Germany (74 players, 10 per cent), then Italy (60 players), France (58) and Spain (52).
At the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, English clubs sent 105 of 736 players. The 2006 figure is more impressive because in 2002, all of the Republic of Ireland's 23 players were English-based. The Irish were not involved in 2006 and won't be in South Africa.
Perhaps the most stunning statistic is that 30 of next summer's 32 squads will probably feature at least one player based in England, up from 25 squads in Germany in 2006. Only Japan and North Koreawill not have an English-based player.
Every other nation, from Australia to Algeria, from New Zealand to Nigeria, from Serbia to Paraguay to the USA, will call upon players in England, mainly from the Premier League.
While Scotland have again failed to reach a major championships, many fans north of the border will also have favourites to follow: 17 players from the SPL are likely to be involved in South Africa.
England's "big four" clubs were all among the most represented clubs in 2006 and will be again. Arsenal had more players in Germany than anyone (15 of them, representing 10 different nations), followed by Chelsea (with 14, from nine countries), Milan (13), Manchester United and Juventus (12 each), Barcelona and Bayern Munich (11 each), and Real Madrid and Lyons (10). Liverpool were among a group of clubs sending nine players.
Q&A: Who's in the Group of Death? Who got lucky? And can I get tickets?
Q. Who's landed the best draw?
A. Italy and Spain have done well, as have England, but hard to look beyond France, given they were not top seeds. They have been paired with the weakest hosts for many a tournament, a Uruguayan side which managed to lose at home to a team coached by Diego Maradona, and Mexico, who are decent but not world-beaters.
Q. And who's left with the worst?
A. North Korea. They face Brazil, Portugal and Ivory Coast which is going to make it very difficult for the Supreme leader to gain a propaganda victory from their participation.
Q. The Premier League is full of foreign players, which dressing rooms are going to be buzzing this weekend?
A. Chelsea's, with Michael Ballack's Germany facing Michael Essien's Ghana; Arsenal's, with Alex Song's Cameroon against Denmark (Nicklas Bendtner) and the Netherlands (Robin van Persie); and Manchester City's (Kolo Touré's Ivory Coast against Robinho's Brazil), stand out, though David James could also get some stick from Portsmouth's Algerians. And how about being a fly on the wall at the LA Galaxy Christmas do, when David Beckham tells Landon Donovan that in Rustenburg they go man-to-man.
Q. Suddenly I'm excited by the World Cup. Can I still get tickets?
A. Fifa.com's 'third sales phase' opens today, where supporters have until 22 January to submit applications for remaining tickets. Oversubscribed matches go to a draw on 1 February. After that, a fourth, first-come-first- served, phase runs to 7 April.Reuse content