The Last Word: You give me fever, fever all through the night

Preparations for the World Cup save our hero from despondency and raise his hopes for English football on the int'l stage.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
Sometimes things creep up on you when you are least expecting it. A couple of weeks ago I was despondent. It was the end of the Israeli and English soccer seasons, which I assumed meant there would be no meaningful soccer to watch until June 9 at 7 p.m. when Germany kicks the World Cup off against Costa Rica in Munich. But suddenly, this weekend, it started. Just when I thought I would have to put up with another fortnight of no action, World Cup fever began with a bang. One might have thought that these pre-tournament friendlies would be meaningless and boring, but try telling that to the Americans who beat Venezuela, under-fire Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy who scored for Holland as the Oranje defeated Cameroon, or the Welsh who handed England's Group B opponents Trinidad and Tobago a 2-1 loss in Austria on Saturday night. Watching clips of some of the 45,000 people who paid to watch Brazil train in Switzerland, with the Samba dancing girls in bikinis mixing with the locals of the tiny town of Weggis, and it is clear the party has already begun, even if many of the teams haven't even arrived in Germany yet. The World Cup. There really is nothing like it. Exactly one month of pure football bliss. And the excitement is becoming palpable. For the first two weeks there are at least three games a day to watch, and nearly every game counts. For us English, every international tournament brings with it the most insane amount of hype and media coverage. This is my first time watching England from outside of the country, but the expectation hasn't waned even a little bit. Growing up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium, coupled with the failure of my favorite team to come anywhere close to the top division, made it hard not to be an England fan. From when I was about six-years-old, I would travel the one stop to Wembley Park station for the majority of England's home games, and always get caught in the passion and excitement of the major tournaments. But unfortunately England has never seemed to achieve its potential. The cruel elimination at the hand of Diego Maradona was just the first in a long list of failures. "We could have beaten Argentina in '86," people say. "We nearly beat West Germany in the 1990 semis," "it was Beckham's fault in '98" - each time there's been an excuse. This time it was going to be different. The team was mature and ready with a great mix of experience and young talent. But the Wayne Rooney debacle changed all that. There's no doubt Rooney was the man England supporters were pinning their hopes on. Paulo Ferreira's appalling tackle in the Chelsea vs Manchester United game which secured the title for the Blues, changed the whole plan. But it appeared obvious from the start that Rooney would not play and all this focus on him surely only distracts the other players from the task in hand. England faces a difficult task, especially with Sweden in its group. It is not unlikely that England could finish second and face Germany in the second round, which would most probably end English dreams before they even started. The decision to take the totally untested Theo Walcott in place of Jermaine Defoe seems to be madness. Walcott is not just inexperienced, he's never even played in the Premiership before and with England's lack of striking power, has a good chance to fail. If only England had Ronaldinho. I don't think there has ever been a player like him. It is not only the Brazilian's skills and pace that astound viewers, but the passion and happiness with which he plays the game is infectious. Surely this is the 26-yearold's year. He's already won the Spanish title and Champions League with Barcelona. Who would bet against him lifting the World Cup in six weeks.