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Still the greatest show on earth?
By Chris Lawton
Move over all other sports - it is wall to wall football for the next month. The World Cup is simply the biggest single sports event on the globe and everyone is caught up in it whether they wish to be or not.

Four years ago, this roadshow of megalithic proportions hit France. At the end of the tournament, France saw off all invaders and became yet another team to win on home soil. That won't happen this time. Neither of the host nations are good enough to win.

For what it's worth, I think Italy or Portugal could win it. Not because they are the best teams, but because of the shape of the draw. The Japanese groups mean that only one of France, Argentina, Brazil or England can reach the final. The Korean side of the draw is easier and I think the easier fixtures could leave Italy, or Portugal, fresher for the final.

The backdrop to this World Cup is, however, vastly different to four years ago. The collapse of TV deals in the UK has meant that many fans will have half an eye on the state of their own club. To overuse a recent phrase - will an England win be a good day to bury bad news about a lower league club?

The state of FIFA has also left a bitter taste in the mouth. Just as corruption scandals have hit the IOC, so FIFA has descended to the depths. The politicking and downright disgraceful behaviour at the FIFA conference this week has left FIFA in an awkward position. Everyone now knows that FIFA is in a perilous financial state. Furthermore, everyone knows that the awarding of certain World Cups is questionable, yet the man in charge for at least some of this was re-elected. Surely there were too many delegates who had something to hide?

The fact that most of UEFA was against Sepp Blatter suggests to me that a new power struggle is going to emerge in world football. UEFA could become the new power base - especially with its hostility to Blatter's plans of a World Cup every two years.

The final sickening backdrop to the World Cup is the fiasco surrounding Roy Keane. If ever anyone needed evidence that Premiership players are overpaid, uncouth and lacking in the brain cell department then surely this is it. Keane has showed an astonishing disregard for his fellow professionals, as well as his manager. What is surprising is that PFA then has the gall to complain about clubs renegotiating player's contracts. If the players demonstrated a high level of professionalism and conduct on the pitch I for one could understand, but at the moment football players are not very high up in my estimations.

So the greatest show on earth is here again. No doubt the football media will rise to a crescendo sometime on June 7th, and then forget about the World Cup as England get knocked out early on. Yes, it is the greatest show on Earth, but to many that is only the case while England are involved.