THE World Cup starts next week. Have you noticed?

That might sound like a strange thing to say with just a week to go before the tournament kicks off in Brazil but this is about as low-key a build-up as I can remember.

In the past, the St George’s flag was everywhere months before a ball was kicked. So far, I have seen just one car with any strapped to the window.

Sunday night at my local pub quiz was the first time I had heard “Three Lions” played this year. Normally, it’s on the radio from about February.

For a desperate cynic like myself, I find this a bit sad.

It’s not that I necessarily want everyone to have their faces painted red and white and get all jingoistic, just showing some enthusiasm would do.

It seems that because expectation surrounding England is at an all-time low, nobody cares anymore.

Now that the whole golden generation thing has been outed as a media-driven myth, the polar opposite has occurred.

The same English national press that have portrayed us as world-beaters ahead of every other World Cup in living memory are now falling over themselves to play it down, no doubt out of fear of being labelled as going over the top.

But is there really anything wrong with wanting to get excited about the tournament and England’s matches against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica?

For what it’s worth, I think Roy Hodgson’s side will do well to get out of their group, but that shouldn’t stop us enjoying the experience.

Surely it’s better to revel in any successes England might enjoy over the next month – even if it’s in hope rather than expectation – instead of getting all het up and calling for the manager’s head when they fail to live up to the hype.

It’s not all about England either. Although I won’t be watching every single match, far from it, the prospect of the world’s top stars going up against each other in an iconic country like Brazil (Maracana stadium pictured above) is an enticing prospect.

For once, put club loyalties, over-inflated wages and FIFA corruption allegations aside and enjoy football’s showpiece event.