The Swedish pop group the Cardigans were labelled traitors in their home nation yesterday over claims that they were to perform England's official song for the World Cup.
With England, coached by the Swede Sven Goran Eriksson, due to face Sweden in their opening group game in Saitama, Japan, on 2 June, the possibility of contributing further to the cause of Beckham, Owen and Co is raising temperatures in Scandinavia.
The Football Association has been deluged with offers to record a theme tune for the tournament since qualification and has a tricky decision to make. But a spokeswoman for the Cardigans said yesterday no talks had taken place. She said: "From my personal point of view, I think they should do it for the Swedish football team. The Swedish newspapers are already saying they're traitors."
The actor Keith Allen is thought to be keen to do his bit for Queen and country again. He performed William Blake's "Jerusalem" for Euro 2000 with a 60-piece orchestra and four choirs. His unofficial song for the 1998 World Cup, "Vindaloo", eclipsed the official Spice Girls number, "Top of the World".
This time, he wants to release his song "On Me Head Son". It was originally written for the film Mike Bassett: England Manager but has been rewritten with new lyrics and the girl band Atomic Kitten are also rumoured to be involved.
The FA was refusing to comment on speculation yesterday about the anthem it would like the fans to chorus at Korea/Japan 2002. A spokesman said: "We have a number of very high-calibre options available to us. We were deluged with people offering to produce a song and there are a number we are considering."
He added: "We feel it's important it's a vibrant song that can be adopted by the fans. There seems to be an expectancy from the public that there will be a World Cup song. As soon as we qualified we received lots of calls from people wanting to know what it would be."
One wonders why. With the notable exceptions of Baddiel and Skinner's "Three Lions", which achieved widespread popularity before Euro 96, and New Order's chart-topping single "World In Motion", which accompanied Bobby Robson's men to Italia 90, the England anthem has a patchy history.
"Back Home" remarkably made it to No 1 in the charts after Mexico 1970 and "This Time" ("We're on our way, we are Ron's 22") got to No 2 in 1982, but no one could regard either as a musical triumph.
A corner was turned in 1990, when New Order struck a chord with the public, despite the rapping of footballer John Barnes. One consolation this year is that the squad will not be deployed to help out. The FA spokesman explained: "Sven has many talents but I don't think that singing is one."
World Cup tunes – the highs and lows
1970 England squad: Back Home. The heroes of '66 produced a singalong, boys-in-the-bath classic . The ditty hit No 1, faring better than the team, knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals.
1982 England squad: This Time (We'll Get It Right). Wrong on both counts. After a long absence from the tournament, the songwriting skills matched the lacklustre on-field displays. Ron Greenwood's finest 22 plunged out in the second group stage while the song peaked at No 2.
1986 England squad: We've Got the Whole World at Our Feet. The squad were up to their usual musical standards as they slumped to defeat by Argentina and Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" in the quarter-finals.
1990 New Order: World in Motion. A bit trendier here, in line with the game's brighter image and growing middle-class appeal. The song topped the charts while England and Paul Gascoigne reached the semi-finals before losing to Germany.
1998 Spice Girls: Top of the World. Girl power failed the hottest phenomenon in pop in a clash with the born again "Three Lions" and "Vindaloo" from Fat Les, aka Alex James, Keith Allen and Damien Hirst. The homage to curry went on to become a terrace classic. The team lost in the last 16.