As football’s global showcase finally cranks into action, here are a few questions to ask yourself if you’re worried that you are being taken in once again by what’s billed as a samba-soaked celebration of s0ccer but is, as we all secretly suspect, nothing more than a slick machine for milking passion and, more importantly, money from mugs all around the world.
In case you’re wondering, answer yes to more than two of them and you should seek help.
1. Have you actually read any of the free World Cup guides that every newspaper and magazine has published in the last month?
2. Have you put a wallchart of fixtures up at home or at work, do you have highlighter pens on standby ready to fill it in?
3. Have you picked out a team in the office sweepstake, and can you name any of their players?
4. Do you have a flag of St George, or any other national flag, anywhere on your car, your house, or even your clothing?
5. Have you refused any opportunity for human interaction over the next month on the grounds that you have to stay in and watch the football?
6. Have you refused any opportunity for family interaction over the next month on the grounds that you have to go to the pub and watch the football?
7. Do you have strong opinions about who should be playing in the England team and why?
8. Do you have carefully-crafted opinions about which obscure player or unfancied team will turn out to be the surprise package of this tournament?
9. Are you enthusiastically filling out a sticker album even though you are allegedly a grown-up?
10. Do you think it’s entirely reasonable that you can put 11 part-timers who play for pin money up against 11 monsyllabic millionaires and not be able to tell by the standard of their play which is which?
11. Can you name any of the global enterprises which have shelled out millions to associate themselves with the tournament, and have you bought any of their products as a result?
12. Have you ever been tempted to dress up in costume to support your national side, or daub your face in the national colours?
13. Do you honestly believe that, in the unlikely event of your national team going all the way and scooping the most coveted prize in soccer – probably in a supremely dull final capped by a penalty shoot out – your life will be in any way improved?
14. Do you honestly believe that your national team has any chance of going all the way this year, or any year?
15. Even if you answered yes to only one question, are you still likely to watch at least some of the tournament?
16. Can you explain why?