Tell you what, Clive, so far this World Cup has yielded more questions than answers. Many of them, not unreasonably, have a footballing theme: why do England, having stormed through their qualifying campaign, now look as though they'd struggle against Nuneaton Borough? Is the Emile Heskey stepover the least natural manoeuvre with a football since David Mellor tried to play keepy-uppy? Why did the sun rise on the day after a German missed a penalty? But many of the questions concern off-the-field activities. Why do the vuvuzela-blowers never pause for breath? What has Joe Cole done to offend Fabio Capello? What are the signs that Emmanuel Adebayor is about to finish a sentence?
The answer to the Joe Cole question I think is clear. The England players have admitted that they feel imprisoned in their luxury hotel, and while some of us may feel that in South Africa of all places, where Nelson Mandela managed to spend 27 years incarcerated without anyone setting up race nights or three-card brag sessions for him, this does not entirely excuse their pitiful attempts to play football, it is nevertheless understandable that they should turn to practical jokes to relieve the tedium. At the moment this is only speculation, but it will surely emerge in the fullness of somebody's autobiography that in a post-supper game of dares Cole was challenged to let himself into Capello's room and cover the manager's toilet with clingfilm. How was he supposed to know that Capello, the man who thinks of everything, had set up CCTV in his bathroom?
To the Adebayor conundrum, however, I don't have even a speculative answer. The man talks like the late Bernard Levin used to write, with more clauses than a Father Christmas convention, but also at greater speed than the late Michael O'Hehir commentating on the Grand National. It is as if the BBC are paying him by the word, and it falls to Gary Lineker to anticipate when his epic sentences are drawing to a close. At half-time in Ghana v Australia I thought I'd worked it out. A slight twitch of Adebayor's left eyebrow seemed to indicate that he was finally running out of quick-fire sub-clauses, but alas, I was wrong.
Of course, I can't even begin to spout forth in French for as long and as rapidly as Adebayor does in English, so credit where it's due. But on the whole – and I realise this leaves me wide-open to a charge of jingoism – I have a slight problem with the number of foreigners employed as pundits by both the BBC and ITV in South Africa.
Clearly, the broadcasters like the overseas perspective, and I know we mustn't get too parochial during the World Cup, but when you're not talking in your native language it's very hard to avoid platitudes. Come to think of it, it's hard enough to avoid platitudes even when you are talking in your native language – mentioning no names of Newcastle United legends with rapidly receding hairlines – but of the substantial foreign contingent, only Jürgen Klinsmann and Clarence Seedorf (above) seem to make consistently worthwhile contributions to the debate. Moreover, as visions go of super-cool masculinity, Seedorf makes George Clooney – heck, even Alan Hansen – look like the famously camp comedian Alan Carr.
Speaking of whom, I enjoyed Carr's contribution to James Corden's World Cup Live the other night. His father, improbably enough in an even wider context than that of this column's opening paragraph, is the former manager of Nuneaton Borough, Graham Carr, who used to get calls from Alex Ferguson when Alan was growing up. Unsurprisingly, whenever Alan answered the phone, Fergie assumed it was Mrs Carr. So, too anxious to disabuse him, Alan used to make small-talk with the Manchester United manager pretending to be his own mother.
That story made me laugh, and heaven knows we England fans need as much fun as we can get out of this tournament, although there's always the BBC's commentary-box double-act of Jonathan Pearce and Mick McCarthy to offer some light relief. What a stroke of genius it was to pair them up. Pearce makes a half-hearted penalty appeal sound like the Second Coming of Christ, while McCarthy, in the admittedly unlikely event of him getting the co-commentator's gig, would make the Second Coming sound like a half-hearted penalty appeal.
Nobody, though, is having a better World Cup than ITV's Kevin Keegan. Asked by Adrian Chiles in the wake of the desperate Algeria game what Capello must do to avoid disaster on Wednesday, Gareth Southgate said something I can't even remember, Patrick Vieira offered the predictably platitudinous "get Rooney more involved", but Keegan showed his astute football mind. "Bring Joe Cole in," he said, bluntly. Tell you what, Clive, he'd make a cracking England manager.Reuse content