THIS week sees the start of the 2018 World Cup, or 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia ™, to give the tournament the full corporate paint job.

According to Coca-Cola, it’s a time to ‘pass the happiness’ – a happiness that may well be passing the landlord of the Mill pub by, as the Skripal Poisoning leaves fans looking for another pub to watch the football.

From a Salisbury perspective, there is a slight queasiness about a competition designed to showcase Russian hospitality to the world. Apparently without irony, the official mascot, Zabivaka the Wolf, is described as one who ‘radiates charm, fun and confidence’.

Certainly, England fans appear to have voted with their feet: this year they’ll be outnumbered by supporters from Peru.

It’s all a long cry from the first (and best) World Cup I remember watching: España 82. I was nine years old and in my state of youthful optimism, I honestly thought England might win it. I even saved up my pocket money to buy the official England World Cup song, ‘This Time (We’ll Get It Right)’ in which ‘Ron’s Twenty-Two’ lumpenly promised to bring the trophy home.

In fairness it all began brilliantly, England scoring after 27 seconds in their opening match against France and emerging top of their group. Paired with West Germany and Spain in the second group stage, England drew nil-nil with both to go out, an unfit Kevin Keegan coming off the bench to flash a crucial header wide.

It was my first taste of football disappointment and wasn’t the only one. As much as I wanted England to do well, I was mesmerised by a Brazilian side who had a galaxy of footballing stars including Socrates, Falcao, Junior and Zico. Brazil went out in the second group stage, too, losing 3-2 in the key match against eventual winners Italy. Italy were Italy, and I remember the referee dismissing Zico’s claims he’d had his shirt pulled, despite the fact said garment was ripped in half.

More footballing injustice was to follow in the equally classic semi-final between France and West Germany. The French substitute Patrick Battiston was through, only to be taken out by the German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher. As Battiston was stretchered off, Schumacher waited impatiently to take his goal kick – the referee not even awarding a foul.

In Russia, such injustices will, in theory, be dealt with by the arrival of VAR. Technological advancements, however, are unlikely to help England’s chances of success.

There isn’t any 2018 World Cup single promising fans victory, which is probably for the best: ‘This Time (We’ll Get Through to the Second Round Before Going Out on Penalties)’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.