Sheep, frog, and disgraced MP sing for Sven
LONDON, June 5: Singing sheep, a ''crazy'' cartoon frog and a disgraced former MP -- the English may not lift the trophy but when it comes to the World Cup pop charts, they are hard to beat.
As 32 teams limber up for the start of the tournament in Germany later this week, at least as many artists, from well-known acts to the downright weird, will begin a frenzied battle of their own to be Number one in the music charts.
For music fans or those wanting to avoid the month-long frenzy surrounding the soccer, there is little chance of escape.
''Certainly the top 20 or 30 (in the charts) could be populated by at least 10 or 12 of these particular tracks when the World Cup gets under way,'' said Gennaro Castaldo from music retailer HMV.
Soccer-inspired pop songs have long been a British tradition since the England squad, led by defender Bobby Moore, went to number one during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico with their song ''Back Home''.
British band New Order then made the format credible with music fans in 1990 with their chart-topping hit ''World In Motion'', which featured a rap by England winger John Barnes.
That was followed by ''Three Lions'', penned by well-known British comedy duo Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, which became an anthem for England fans, topping the charts in both 1996 and 1998.
But this time round, the dizzying array of singles varies from the official Football Association-approved track by indie band Embrace, to long-forgotten stars, ageing comedians and the frankly bizarre.
''Everyone's having a go whether they've got a well-known profile or they are just some local band hoping to make it into the charts and get 15 minutes of fame,'' Castaldo told Reuters.
The media have also jumped on the patriotic bandwagon with newspapers and radio stations lending their support to some of the various acts.
So, the Tonedef Allstars, featuring Geoff Hurst who scored a hat-trick in England's only World Cup triumph in 1966, are backed by The Sun, Britain's best-selling daily paper, for their ''Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Juergen Klinsmann'' song. Virgin Radio has adopted punk group Sham 69's hit from the 70s into ''Hurry Up, England'' (instead of ''Hurry Up, Harry''), while presenters at the Talk Sport radio station are releasing their own single ''We're England''.
''It wouldn't have happened 20 years ago,'' Castaldo said.
''You've got two features to this whole World Cup thing.
Essentially it's become about the fans themselves and their assionate aspirations for team and country.
''But you've also got the media who increasingly want to align themselves to the World Cup and they are looking for a track or a product that will allow them to do it.'' ''BAARMY'' SONGS However it is the odd songs that really stand out.
The Cumbria Tourist Board have recorded a flock of sheep -- the ''Baarmy sheep'' -- from the picturesque Lake District, ''baa-ing'' to the tune of the English classic anthem ''Land of Hope and Glory'' (www.golakes.co.uk/worldcupsheep).
Neil Hamilton, a former Conservative Party Member of Parliament who became a minor media celebrity after becoming embroiled in a ''cash for questions'' scandal, has produced a duet with his formidable wife Christine.
Crazy Frog, an animated character used in TV adverts to sell mobile phone ringtones, has produced a cover of rock band Queen's ''We Are The Champions''.
And unknown double act Edd Holloway and Ben Goodridge are hoping to latch on to the nation's fears over injured star striker Wayne Rooney with ''We Can't Smile Without Roo'' -- a reworking of Barry Manilow's 1978 hit ''Can't Smile Without You''.
However, bookmakers predict that it will be the Tonedef Allstars who will triumph when all the singles are finally released.
Their offering -- based on the theme tune from the BBC's World War Two comedy classic ''Dad's Army'' -- has the sing-along qualities that spark fans' imaginations, they believe.