This was supposed to be the golden moment for England, certainly if you believe the media in that country.
A group of players reaching the peak of its powers, a top class manager at last, and an easy World Cup section have raised hopes through the roof.
Until the tabloid tales began.
In this latest twist, Wayne Bridge has decided he does not wish to be selected for his country's team as it would be potentially divisive.
His decision follows on the allegations about John Terry's liaisons with the Manchester City player's former partner.
You can understand the player's reasons.
The press attention on every pass between Bridge and Terry would have been immense.
However, it hurts England's World Cup hopes.
With Ashley Cole injured and also suffering from tabloid revelations it leaves a void at leftback. None of the replacements sound all that impressive and it is another headache that Fabio Capello could surely do without.
The danger is that off-the-pitch problems are going to affect the stability of a squad which had such high hopes.
(Not everyone is convinced they are actually that good, by the way.)
If you do accept that England are contenders for international football's top prize, does it matter that Bridge will not be going with them?
From a playing point of view, possibly not.
He is a solid, but not outstanding performer, who gives a steady display without doing anything spectacular.
Ready replacements probably exist.
The real question is do all these outside stories start to have an impact on what happens on the pitch?
It would certainly appear Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti think so.
Both have urged their players to be on their best behaviour after so many stories have appeared on the front pages of the papers.
However, if you look across the England squad, what are the chances of that?
From Rooney to Gerrard and beyond there are precious few who are squeaky clean in terms of their public image.
It probably should not matter, but Bridges' decision only heightens the feeling of chaos around the English expedition to South Africa.
Capello is such a master, however, he may be able to turn it to his advantage. If he can create a siege mentality in his side it could serve them well at the World Cup. The determination to prove that they are not simply a bunch of overpaid bad-boys could fuel success.
It might go either way.
One thing is for sure, the next few months are going to make an intriguing spectacle, especially if any more revelations come along.