Follow the money

Here we go, etc. - the World Cup's off to a flier, then. Not a ball had yet been kicked when Spain unceremoniously sacked their manager for announcing that he would be Real Madrid's new coach next season only days before his team's tasty tournament opener against Portugal. The former Madrid defender, and native of Vélez-Málaga, Fernando Hierro, has taken over at the helm.

Ah, yes, now presumably this would be the same Fernando Hierro who came back to Malaga from Madrid a good few years ago to become sporting director with the Costa del Sol club just after they were taken over by the stinkingly rich Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani. Señor Hierro, though, insisted that he had not in any way come for the money, rather - as one marvellous local newspaper headline put it - 'Por El Amor De Mi Tierra' (For The Love Of My Homeland). When it became clear a couple of years later that the Sheikh was, in fact, in possession of very short arms and very deep pockets, and in spite of his undoubted and overwhelming passion for his wonderful homeland, Fernando somehow found the inner strength to slope off back to Madrid with a wistful tear in his eye, for reasons that may or may not have been to his financial benefit. Anyway, whatever the history, it's now 'homeland lover' Fernando Hierro's job to steer the Spanish team to victory in Russia.

Meanwhile, England's build-up has been relatively drama-free in comparison, with various parties involved admitting that we can't possibly win the trophy this time (makes a change) and that the players will be able to better express themselves without the burden of unrealistic expectations encumbering their every shimmy and feint.

The bookies have got the Three Lions at twenty to one at the time of writing but I'd wait until after they've ground out a soul-sapping goalless draw against the mighty Tunisia next week before placing a bet, because the odds will surely be quickly revised to such an extent that a tenner wager would allow you to buy a small Caribbean island (or maybe even a studio apartment in Malaga) should the unthinkable happen and England romp to victory on the back of a tide of national joy and pride. Alternatively, and back in the real world, you could just spend your ten euros getting some beer and crisps in for the inevitable Brazil v. Germany final.

Now, having said all of that, it is worth pointing out that if the Spanish football authorities are offering an enormous financial incentive to their coach for victory, Fernando's lads might just get there - motivated primarily, of course, by their love of their homeland.